HAPPY FEET TWO
Blu-ray Review by Kevin Carr
MOVIE: ** (out of 5 stars)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
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.
Blu-ray Review by Kevin Carr
MOVIE: *** (out of 5 stars)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5 stars)
The Buddies are back for another adventure. This time, after braving the snow, going into space, meeting Santa Claus and getting spooked on Halloween, they’re on a desert adventure in “Treasure Buddies.”
THE LESSONS OF CHIEF PONDY
On the whole, I enjoy the Aid Buddies movies, which has been a healthy franchise that extended the “Air Bud” films farther than I ever expected. It’s hard to go wrong with cute golden retriever puppies, and while the puppies change from installment to installment, the characters remain the same.
In this episode of the Air Buddies, the gang of pups (including Budderball, B-Dawg, Rosebud, Buddha and Mudbud) hitch a ride to Egypt where they try to stop a race of cats from changing history so they can become man’s best friend.
There’s shades of previous children’s films throughout this movie. We’ve seen this cats versus dogs bit in “Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore,” though this one isn’t as rocky of a presentation. Additionally, there’s been a resurgence of desert adventures in theaters lately (including “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” a couple years ago and more recently “The Adventures of Tintin”). Even with the type treatment on the Blu-ray, it’s clear that the film is trying to emulate the spirit of the Indiana Jones films, and I’m okay with that.
But boiled down, this is simply another Air Buddies movie, featuring cute puppies and various talkign animals. There’s a monkey and a camel as new characters, which has been a staple of the Buddies movies for several cycles. It’s a lower-rent film than what you’d see in the theaters, but it’s cute enough for the kids.
The Blu-ray comes with two special features. “DIGS: B-Dawg Edition” continues the tradition of knocking off “Cribs” with one of the Buddies. This time, we get the blinged-out home of B-Dawg, who is probably the most annoying of the whole bunch. But like the film itself, the kids will find this cute.
There’s also a music video included on the disc. Both this and the “DIGS” featurette are also included on the enclosed DVD.
DVD Review by Kevin Carr
MOVIE: *** (out of 5 stars)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: * (out of 5 stars)
As a dog owner, I always appreciate any attempt to properly instruct children on how to handle and interact with a dog. Not only does this help the well-being of the dog but it also helps avoid problematic situations, such as a child getting bitten when it could have been avoided.
K9 Ponderosa is a training and rehabilitation ranch for dogs. To help educate families and children on how to deal with man’s best friend, they have produced a couple videos. Both videos include the Ten Lessons of Chief Pondy, which are handed down by a Native American man who understands dogs very well. Both videos also focus on a rescued dog named Oreo and how Chief Pondy helps educate some children on how to deal with him.
The first video, “The Lessons of Chief Pondy,” is a live-action featurette produced in 2008. Told in flashback by a grandfather and his grandchildren, this tells the story of how Chief Pondy and K9 Ponderosa worker MacConachie found a stray dog named Oreo. By using Chief Pondy’s ten lessons, they were able to get Oreo to trust them.
The second video is “The Lessons of Chief Pondy: Scottie and Oreo,” and it features a similar story in which a grandfather and his grandkids must try to find their lost dog. This one is flash-animated and also features a group of kids who don’t know the lessons and mess up catching the dog.
Both films run about 15 minutes and can be quickly watched by a family or children. They have their heart in the right place, and any stilted elements are forgiveable considering their low-budget nature and the clear fact they’re labors of love.
It’s sad that it’s so easy to get a dog, but there’s no accountability for children or their parents to handle them properly. “The Lessons of Chief Pondy” offers real knowledge that is immediately usable. It’s not common knowledge, but it should be.
If you’re considering getting a family dog or want your young children to have a refresher course on how to properly act around animals, give either version of “The Lessons of Chief Pondy” a look.
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