Catholic News Service
Penguins are once again tap dancing at the bottom of the world in “Happy Feet Two,” the 3-D sequel to the 2006 movie which won the Academy Award for best animated film.
Director and co-writer George Miller returns for this mostly family-friendly musical adventure, which reinforces the themes of his first movie, including believing in yourself, embracing differences and finding your own path through life.
We’re back in Antarctica among those emperor penguins with the itchy fins, who break into group dance at a moment’s notice. Mumble (voice of Elijah Wood), the hero of the first installment, has married his true love, Gloria (voice of Alecia Moore, also known as Pink), and they have a cute-as-a-button son, Erik (voice of Ava Acres). Erik is “choreophobic,” as his dad once was, embarrassed by his two left fins and a distinct lack of rhythm.
Feeling misunderstood and unloved, Erik runs away, joined by his two oddly named chums, Atticus and Boadicea (voices of Benjamin “Lil P-Nut” Flores Jr. and Meibh Campbell). They follow a maverick adult penguin named Ramon (voice of Robin Williams) to his homeland.
Ramon is feeling rejected, too, not over his dancing prowess, but his lackluster love life among the lady penguins.
The quartet arrives in Ramon’s native Adelie Land, a rival penguin colony ruled by Sven (voice of Hank Azaria) who by some freak of nature — presuming, indeed, he really is a penguin — can fly. Adelie Land is diverse and free-spirited, offering Erik lessons in tolerance and perseverance.
“It’s part of life to find out who you are and what you are good at,” Sven says, adding, “If you want something you have to will it. If you will it, it will be yours.”
This is also the message of the resident preacher, the unfortunately named Lovelace (also voiced by Williams), who leads the colony in bumps and grinds. Here Ramon finds his soul mate, the sultry Carmen (voice of Sofia Vergara).
“You. Me. Beautiful Egg. Now,” he tells Carmen.
Before things get too hot and heavy, Mumble finds the runaways, and they start for home. In their absence, disaster has struck the emperor colony, threatening its very existence. Father and son must join forces to save the day, with the help of their new friends and some giant elephant seals.
A side story follows the adventures of two tiny krill shrimp, Will (voice of Brad Pitt) and Bill (voice of Matt Damon). Their roles are pure comic diversion, similar to the prehistoric squirrel Scrat in the “Ice Age” movies.
Environmental issues such as global warming and offshore oil drilling take a back seat to the central story about familial cooperation. What the script — collaborated on by Miller, Gary Eck, Warren Coleman and Paul Livingston — lacks in originality is more than made up for by some stunning vistas, a few catchy tunes and an effective use of 3-D technology.
The film contains a few intense action scenes, some mild innuendo and minimal potty humor. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.