Happy Feet 2 (2011) – Film Review
Director: George Miller
Voice Cast: Elijah Wood, Robin Williams, Brad Pitt
by Chris Dabbs
Give me a CGI of a tearful baby penguin, backed by multiple vocal harmonies and sad music. I guarantee you it will stir my emotions every time. I won’t cry – I’m too old to cry in public now – but rest assured emotions will be stirred, if only for a moment.
Unfortunately, for Happy Feet 2, the more ‘moving’ scenes in the film owe more credit to the music than the story itself. The characters go skin deep and although the film redeems itself at times with a handful of very funny moments, it still feels more like a charity fund-raiser for insecure penguins then a blockbuster movie. I like penguins, don’t get me wrong. And I don’t like to see them cry – but that is not the basis for a film.
For me, the krill (microscopic prawn-like sea-creatures) absolutely steal the show. They enrich the overall plot and drag Happy Feet 2 from its boring icy depths. The motif ‘everyone is important’ follows on from the original Happy Feet. This time it is taken to the microscopic level. As the krill’s first scene arrives I feel like the director is handing me a note saying: “Yes, I know it’s all the same, but the kids won’t notice – here’s your pay-off.”
“Excuse for a tear here and there”
And quite the pay off it was. The animation is nothing short of brilliant. New worlds of detail are introduced to the screen. We are given zoom-ins from the perspective of a penguin right down to the micro-fibres of the fur on a sea-lion. The extremes of variation we are shown during these scenes make them very engaging and the characters instantly likeable. If I am to have it my way I would have all the penguins’ apparent discomfort contented within the first scene. Then spend the rest of my time observing the transformation of a krill-turned-carnivore.
The lack of genuine conflict in the film makes it difficult for an audience to achieve their switch-off-engage mode. Without conflict we don’t see the characters tested. If they aren’t tested then we can only know them as, I suppose, a friend of a friend. And a friend of a friend of a penguin, is a bit like trying to have a conversation with your mate’s dog. It seems that none of the characters are ever in any genuine danger. Dilemmas are only ever half-introduced before something else comes along to take their place. But in all honesty, I think kids will love this film. I believe I have already mentioned it has fluffy penguins in it?
People who enjoy a good cry will find excuse for a tear here and there, but for those, like me, who are searching for a little more – abandon all hope.