‘Happy Feet Two’ tries to fit too much in one movie

By Larissa Gula

There are bad sequels, there are pointless sequels and there are agitating sequels. “Happy Feet Two” is all three. … “Happy Feet Two”

Directed by George Miller

Starring Elijah Wood, Robin Williams, Pink

Grade: D

There are bad sequels, there are pointless sequels and there are agitating sequels. “Happy Feet Two” is all three.

Following up with Mumble the tap-dancing penguin, this animated film takes place not long after the first film ends as Mumble (Elijah Wood) and Gloria (Pink) live happily with their fellow Emperor penguins trying to raise their son. After Mumble’s journey outside of the penguins’ homeland in the first film, their society has reformed — children are taught not only how to sing, but how to dance.

But Mumble’s son, Erik (E.G. Daily), does not fit in with his fellow penguins and does not have the passion for dancing that his father brought to the group. During a brief journey with Mumble’s old friend Ramon (Robin Williams), Erik meets a revered bird named The Mighty Sven (Hank Azaria). Mistaking Sven for a penguin that can fly, Erik makes it his dream to learn how to do the same. But before he can return home to his mother and father, everyone’s world is literally shaken as melting icebergs cause disturbances throughout the Antarctic.

If this seems like a messy story, it is. One of this film’s biggest flaws is its fast pacing and attempts to squeeze too much into a two-hour running time. The first movie was accused of the opposite problem — being too slow — but it seems that this film has overcorrected.

This problem doesn’t just affect the plot — the music and visuals are overdone, as well. This is pretty much a long, never-ending music video with mash-up after mash-up of bad dance moves and songs with the lyrics edited to make penguin jokes. The few lines of dialogue that aren’t sung are forced, fast and painful to listen to.

Though it was slow, the original “Happy Feet” characters felt developed and relatable, thanks in part to some very convincing voice acting. The fact that the first film followed a limited set of characters over the course of several years led to a fairly decent, emotional story told convincingly, albeit slowly.

“Happy Feet Two” does no such thing. Instead, it’s too busy juggling a bizarre, overcomplicated plot to even pick a main character or two. Not once during the film is it made clear whether the main protagonist is Mumble, his son, Gloria or any other penguin in the film. And come the end of the film, it’s impossible to tell what the lesson was. The value of family? The importance of good deeds and of being true to yourself? That even the smallest beings can make an impact on their surroundings? It could have been any of these — or something else, for all viewers knew.

Adding to the film’s flaws, Mumble’s parents (played by Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman) have completely disappeared. And the character of Gloria feels substantially different since Brittany Murphy, the original voice actress, died. Plus, in what may have been the worst decision by the director, the film got an additional two characters named Bill (Matt Damon) and Will (Brad Pitt), two krill taking part in a separate, unrelated journey of their own.

Remember Scrat the saber-toothed squirrel in the “Ice Age” films? These two krill serve a similar purpose — they offer pointless, bad comedy and distract viewers from the story, effectively ruining any limited tension that ever existed.

As the final nail in the coffin, while some other recent animated films know how to use 3-D effectively, this one does not. Young children may be amazed by the bubbles floating toward their faces and may enjoy the return of these dancing penguins — but this time, few outside of that age group will feel the same.