Films dealing with father-son relationships are the order of the day (think Real Steel
, in recent times). Add to this a dollop of environmental issues, impromptu choreographed song and dance sequences, spectacular visuals and a bit of bromance; place them all in an anthropomorphic world located in the Antarctic, and you get Happy Feet Two, in 3D.
In his ambitious Happy Feet, George Miller tried to prove a number of points, and won accolades galore. The sequel is less motivated, and there are yo-yos between fewer issues, liberally peppered with songs. In fact, Happy Feet Two is a musical, and not a complicated one at that.
Since comparisons with the first movie are inevitable, you should know that the sequel has no long journeys, no ruthlessness, no violence and no heartbreak. It is the story of Erik (Ava Acres), the fluffy son of glorious songster Gloria (Pink) and the tap-dancing Mumble (Elijah Wood). They live with their brethren - thousands of Emperor Penguins settled harmoniously in their little corner of the world, singing, dancing and feasting on fish.
Erik has identity issues, because he does not know how to dance (a trend his father began in the first movie). Embarrassed by his own awkwardness, he runs away with Ramon (Robin Williams), an Adele Penguin, who is tired of being mocked by the Emperors.
Ramon barges into the Adele colony, which has a new wonder new - a flying penguin, Sven (Hank Azaria), with a huge beak and a way with the women. While Ramon resents Sven's popularity, Erik is fascinated and decides to make flying his goal. (Sven is, of course, no penguin - he is a puffin).
All that is short-lived, however, since Mumble arrives and orders the three young kids to go back with him. When Mumble and his group reach Emperor Land, they discover that a huge iceberg has slammed into their land, and their community is trapped, without access to food and water.
In a parallel storyline, much like that of Skrat the Saber-Toothed Squirrel in the Ice Age series, Will The Krill (Brad Pitt) decides that he no longer wants to live with the million crustaceans in the swarm. He wants to be his own crustacean, and so he swims away. Bill the Krill (Matt Damon), his best friend, follows to reason with him, and both are thrown into a whirlwind adventure.
Will Mumble save his community? Will the krill duo find what they are looking for (how to become a carnivore, for one)? Will Erik find his calling? Will Sven save the day? Will Ramon be united with the pompous but stunning Carmen (Sofia Vergara)? Will Bryan keep his promise?
The plot is not tiresome, although it drags a bit, mid-way. It is predictable, mostly, but the wisecracks are engaging. The simplicity in the script lets you enjoy the real hero of the film - the 3D visuals.
The animation is incredible, and almost flawless. The Aurora Australis in the sky is only excelled by the light of the krill swarm underwater. In fact, most of the underwater sequences are indescribably good. The makers have taken a region that is endlessly white, and managed to create a stunning panorama that, at no point, looks over-the-top or manipulated.
The voice artistes are excellent. Pink as the new Gloria (filling in for the late Brittany Murphy) has sung a few songs as well. Sofia Vergara is instantly recognisable, especially for Modern Family fans. The best performance comes from Matt Damon and Brad Pitt - the latter even manages to belt out lines from popular songs, albeit slightly off-key. Their constant banter is a delight, bromantic and reminiscent of their bonding in Ocean's Eleven
Everybody sings in the movie, and the soundtrack comprises some original compositions and some popular songs. Queen's Under Pressure, for example, is aptly placed in a sequence that (a) you would not expect a song in, and (b) is relevant and fantastically shot. Erik's Opera is by far one of the best musical moments in animation history.
If you are looking for intellectual comedy, then Happy Feet Two is not for you. Watch it with your kids and other children, and be prepared to relax as you take in a movie that taxes your brains nor tries too hard to be clever. A good weekend watch, provided you leave high expectations at home.