In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb house jack

The House That Jack Built

Ultimately, it’s more of an inconsistent cry into the void than the conversation starter it could have been.

Thumb mule poster

The Mule

The Mule repeatedly spells out and hammers home its message about the importance of family, but it ultimately rings hollow.

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb tvovw7qjj63zbqw5tz8cjpthaud

Schindler's List

This was published on June 24th, 2001, and we are republishing it in honor of the film's 25th anniversary rerelease."Schindler's List" is described as a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Blog Archives

Reviews

Happy Feet Two

Happy Feet Two Movie Review
  |  

The opening musical number in "Happy Feet Two" reminds me of Zhang Yimou's choreography for the 2008 Olympics. There are thousands and thousands of penguins, all perfectly coordinated, singing and dancing. One wonders if, like the Chinese performers, they were getting their cues from tiny earpieces. But where are a penguin's ears?

The fact is, penguins offer relatively little for an animator to work with. They can't smile or wink. They can't furrow their brows. They have flippers instead of hands. As for dancing, we look at two big feet extending a few inches from a spheroid body and know we won't be reminded of Fred Astaire. By and large, penguins look much alike. I'm sure they can tell themselves apart, but I was thankful for the one wearing the rainbow knit sweater and wish they'd all had baseball caps or tattoos — anything.

Advertisement

The youngish audiences for this movie may not agree with me. George Miller's original "Happy Feet" (2006) grossed $385 million and won an Oscar for best animated feature, and here again is the hero Mumble (Elijah Wood), now with a young son, Erik (Ava Acres). The two of them and perhaps a dozen other penguins, krill, seals and puffins are developed as characters; the thousands of others are as alike as members of a marching band. Some whole species are denied individual status; the birds are merely birds, and although we share the suffering of the krill as they risk being eaten, there is no sympathy for lots of fish that are gobbled alive.

Antarctica is still melting, as the first film warned. In "Happy Feet Two," an enormous chunk of a glacier breaks off, stranding the so-called Penguin Nation in an isolated bowl from which there seems to be no escape. Luckily, Erik and a couple of his pals, who were bad penguins and ran away from home, are outside the bowl, and much of the action involves how the Penguin Nation can escape. Starvation is the alternative.

"Happy Feet Two" is handled as a musical with a startling range of tastes; we get numbers all the way from Queen's "We Are the Champions" to a solo aria, "E lucevan le stelle," from Puccini's "Tosca." You wonder how these penguins found out about Puccini. Then you realize it's just as inexplicable how they found out about Queen. No matter. Younger viewers, who have no idea what an aria is, may simply enjoy the music.

The lives of all the surface creatures are intercut with a parallel plot involving two new characters, bright orange krill voiced by Matt Damon and Brad Pitt. What would you give to see a behind-the-scenes documentary of the two of them doing a voicing session? A krill, in case an instant of doubt crossed your mind, looks something like a shrimp, with countless spindly legs.

As the krill themselves discuss bitterly, they occupy the bottom of the food chain in Antarctica and are scooped up in the millions by humpback whales and suchlike. They survive only because they're individuals and have the pluck to leave their swarm. The very word swarm tends to reduce a krill's self-esteem, don't you imagine? It's one thing to be a member of a pack, a school, a herd, a team, a flock or a pride, but — a swarm?

Advertisement

Because all the action must take place near the deep ice bowl where the penguins are trapped, there are two possibilities: climbing out or sliding down. Penguins are especially adept at sliding on their plump, sleek bellies, and some of their stunts resemble extreme sports. Along the way, the film teaches many wholesome lessons about family, self-confidence and hope, as well as the importance of being as high in the food chain as possible.

For me, "Happy Feet Two" is pretty thin soup. The animation is bright and attractive, the music gives the characters something to do, but the movie has too much dialogue in the areas of philosophy and analysis. It occurred to me, not for the first time, that it is a hard life being a penguin.

Popular Blog Posts

The Ten Best Films of 2018

The staff choices for the best films of 2018.

The Baffling Failure of Fallout 76

A review of Fallout 76.

Glenn Kenny's Top Ten Films of 2018

The ten best films of 2018, according to Glenn Kenny.

My problem with "Blue Velvet"

If you want to understand David Lynch, maybe the place to start is with his paintings. He paints in a style he descri...

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus