HAPPY FEET TWO. Voiced by Elijah Wood, Ava Acres, Robin Williams, Pink, Richard Carter, Hank Azaria, Anthony La Paglia, Matt Damon and Brad Pitt. Directed by George Miller. Rated G. 100 minutes.
This is a cheerful show even if most of the penguins, computer-generated thousands of them, are stranded by a shift in the ice and snow, in need of food, and longing to get to the sea. With lots of little penguins, especially Mumble’s tiny son, Erik, there is enough for the littlies and their parents – despite a sequence where the raiding Alpha Skua swoop on the penguins. Not sure at what age tolerance for penguins, especially singing, dancing and stomping penguins, cuts out.
This sequel can’t have the novelty of the Oscar-winning original. But, there are enough characters to welcome back, Elijah Wood as Mumble, serious now in caring for Erik (Ava Acres) and anxious about Gloria (Pink – singing some songs – replacing the later Brittanny Murphy. Hugo Weaving and Magda Szubanski have cameo roles as the severe Noah and the loud Miss Viola. And Robin Williams is back in two roles, and courting penguin Carmen (Sofia Vergera).
As always, from The Simpsons to The Smurfs, Hank Azaria does scene-stealing voices. This time he is the very Scandinavian, Sven the Puffin, pretending to be a penguin that can fly, helping when he can, though puffining out at times. Then there are the two Krill, Will the Krill and Bill the Krill, whose story runs parallel to the main one until the end, who indulge in lots of repartee and wisecracks – one in a krillion. They are voiced by Brad Pitt and Matt Damon who are obviously enjoying themselves.
My favourite was Richard Carter as Brian the giant sea elephant, very Ocker accent and vocabulary and all (with two littlies who are cutely concerned about their daddy). Since the penguins, judging by their accents, have all migrated from the US, except for Hugo and Magda, Brian offers more than a little local colour and tone. And the stories he is involved in are a bit of excitement instead of us looking so much at the stranded penguins, even though they do sing and dance a lot.
Mumble does a good turn for Brian when he is beached on an ice ledge. Later, there is an appeal to Brian and his company to come to shake the ice (the happy feet aren’t able to do it alone) and make a path to safety for the penguins.
There are excerpts from quite a few songs as well as some originals. When Erik sings to plead with Brian to come, he finds words about his hero father to an aria from Puccini. When, Brian and the herd take to the ice to come to the rescue, it is the theme from Rawhide.
Now that director George Miller has finished Happy Feet Two at last, we all hope that he gets back to his next Mad Max project – and we will be even happier.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out December 26, 2011.