HAPPY FEET TWO
MOVIE: ** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
To a typical marketing executive at a studio, a film like “Happy Feet Two” should have been a rousing success. It had everything that the original film had. The surviving cast returned for another go-round. The director was the same. The animation looked very much like the first film. There’s a good-spirited pro-environmental message. And the movie was filled with cute, dancing penguins, which helped propel the first film to Oscar-winnign status.
However, “Happy Feet Two” fizzled in theaters this past winter. Not being a wild fan of the first film, I’m not exactly sure why, but there are many possible reasons. The moviegoers’ taste for animation has softened, or possibly there’s more fierce competition out there. Maybe it’s because penguins aren’t the new in thing as they were in the mid 2000s. But the biggest struggle that “Happy Feet Two” has is that it feels forced through much of the film.
Mumble (Elijah Wood) is back, this time with a young chick he’s taking care of. But when he heads out to save his son from wandering off, he returns to discover the entire flock has been trapped by a glacier. It takes Mumble and all the other creatures in Antarctica to find a way to save them.
“Happy Feet Two” plays a bit different in a home video environment. Mainly, it’s less in-your-face as the 3D presentation was on the big screen. That’s normally a negative blow to a film, but this lets the DVD and Blu-ray show some restraint. Like the previous film, the visuals are stunning, and the Antarctic backdrop is at times simply breathtaking.
Looking at “Happy Feet Two” strictly from an aesthetic perspective, it’s a triumph. The realism of this CGI animation has reached new heights, and this production (sadly put out of business by the theatrical performance of the film) had the ability to give other major studios like Pixar a run for its money.
The characters are expanded in this film beyond penguins. We have the elephant seals come into play as well as the colorful krill in the ocean following a loosely-related side-story. Like the rest of the film, they look beautiful, though there are some strange moments where the animation does break down a bit. Still, the vast majority of “Happy Feet Two” is gorgeous to look at.
The tripping point is the story. It goes in several different direction beyond the introduction of the krill. There’s a new bird, a puffin named Sven who convinces everyone he’s a penguin that can fly. There’s also a backstory to the boisterous Lovelace. While there’s plenty of toe-tapping music, it’s sometimes awkwardly fit in and not always relevant.
Still, singing and dancing penguins will be of interest to the kids. And without the need for 3D in the home theater, the younger children will have a longer attention span without having to fiddle with the glasses. In the end, I liked “Happy Feet Two” more watching it a second time on Blu-ray. It’s still not the finest CGI animated film of the year, but it played better in the comfort (and quiet) of my home.
The Blu-ray set comes with the Blu-ray, the DVD and UltraViolet Digital Copy. There’s the interactive “Happy Feet Two” Movie App available for next-gen iPhones and iPads, which allows additional features during hte film. Other special features include a behind-the-scenes look at Antarctica with Lil’ P-Nut, a tutorial on how to draw Erik the Penguin and a look at Alecia Moore’s involvement in the film. Finally, there’s a commentary track as well as sing-along music videos.