"Happy Feet Two" could have used an editor with ice in his or her veins, to judiciously slice out some unneeded plotlines and save the extra scenes for "Happy Feet Three."
The penguins from the Oscar-winning 2006 film are cute as ever, and the icy visuals are breathtaking. You almost feel the chill of the setting and feel the drips of the (global-warming-inspired?) melting snow. There are beautiful moments, including a penguin danceline the size of the Antarctic, and some great musical choices, including "Surfin' Bird." But there are just too many plotlines crammed into a film that's overlong for its young audience.
Lead pengin Mumble (Elijah Wood again) is now a daddy (singer Pink replaces the late Brittany Murphy as the voice of his wife, Gloria). When their son, Erik, discovers a cult-leader-like flying penguin named The Mighty Sven (Hank Azaria), he's entranced.
But in addition to Sven's mystery, there's a lengthy plotline where Mumble has to rescue a trapped elephant seal, a sideplot about two krill friends, some random Robin Williams schtick, lots of musical numbers, including an entire Pink solo, and the movie's slow-to-resolve main plot about what happens when an iceberg breaks apart and traps most of the penguins without food.
Threatening your main characters with death by starvation is a little grim, but then again, so was Cruella DeVil wanting to skin the "101 Dalmatians." But the rescue attempts go on and on, with the audience as trapped as the flightless birds, waiting for something to happen. It's a giant relief when lumbering, Aussie-accented elephant seal Bryan the Beachmaster and pals finally galumph to the rescue.
Some critics don't like the subplot involving Will and Bill the krills, the little red shrimp-like guys voiced by Brad Pitt and Matt Damon. Granted, they don't have a lot to do with the penguins, only occasionally sliding down their backs or whizzing past them, but they're also goofily charming. ("How far to the face?" one of them demands upon deciding he's going to climb to the top of the food chain.)
Some of the young ones at my screening got a little restless as the film lurched past an hour and a half, but the penguins always did something eventually to snap their eyes back to the screen. Another animated-film Oscar may not be on ice for this sequel, but parents looking for a diversion this weekend and over the Thanksgiving holiday won't mind a bit.
Will you see "Happy Feet Two"? Tell us, or give us your review, in the comments.
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