Rental Corner: “Happy Feet” returns with a uneven beat
The idea of penguins being the center of atttention is getting old these days. The dismal box-office return and negative critical reviews of “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” is evidence of that. Although, while its not the last film to nail in the coffin of this antartic animal fad, “Happy Feet Two” is more likely the source of this dying trend in penguin films. Being one who likes animals, I have nothing against penguins. But since the massive audience appeal that began with “Happy Feet,” things began to get straining as we went from dancing penguins to surfing penguins with many studios cashing in on this idea. To sum up my thoughts of this trend and the movie, think back to a gag in the Simpsons Movie when Homer is playing “Grand Theft Walrus” and in the game shoots a penguin that tap dances. That joke alone greatly sums up how the public felt when it came to this sequel to a movie many enjoyed.
We return to Antartica, to find that Mumbles (reprised by Elijah Wood) is a father to a kid penguin named Erik. While the emporer penguins have adapted the way of song and dance, little Erik unfortunatly can’t seem to tap dance as good as his father. Ramon (Robin Williams who also plays the “love penguin” Lovelace) also finds things have changed in his commute when he finds his flock have accepted a Swedish accented puffin named Sven (voiced by Hank Azaria) who is mistaken for being the only penguin in the area that can fly. Erik sees this grand marvel and believes that maybe doing air travel is more interesting than learning to dance.
However, there is trouble afoot as a massive iceburg closes in on the emporer penguin’s territory entrapping them in a massive bowl with no possible escape. This leads to some interesting questions of how one would get out or survive, but all the time I kept asking did the writers see Ice Age: The Meltdown and Chicken Run. With the idea of a massive community trapped in an enclosed space and a bird that says all kinds can fly, its leads one to question what was the scripting process like.
“Happy Feet Two” suffers from having one plotline too many and that is probably the biggest problem I have with this sequel. As one story layers after another, I kept thinking how far to do you have to make a story complex in order for it to be entertaining. It feels like it all started with a simple idea to make a story about a little penguin that can’t dance like his pop and then gradually expanded as one made another script after another proposing a possible storyline. In the final run, it feels like all these ideas were crammed in as opposed to making seperate movies for each one. Even a running gag involving two small krill that try to find a place in the universe would have been more suited as a sepearete picture (even thought I will admit, they had a better fleshed out storyline then everything else tossed in). And when you have the feeling that one plot line is more developed than everything else, you know something is wrong.
At times, its feels like more effort was placed in the visual work and staging in musical numbers, which to its credit are impressive with the exception of the “Under Pressure” finale being a big highlight. But something doesn’t seem to be adding up here. The characters are ok, the songs and computer effects are good as the original, but what is missing is the heart. The first film delt with prejudicy in a decent way, and while placing an environmental message that felt somewhat forced, everything worked out fine as the acceptance of a character of different quality was the center of the film. Its sequel has no center to focus on and just feels like cutaway scenes from the video game woven together to make a feature film. The penguins may look cute and innocient, but the sequel as a whole makes me want to recommend my viewers to watch “Fraggle Rock” to show how to do a subtext about working together and bring communities of different races together no matter how big or small. There is a lot more you can get out of from a 96 episode series than a movie that crams too much in like a tight can of tuna with little air to breath.