Happy Feet Two (2011) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
14Mar/121

Happy Feet Two (2011)

*while two krill are dancing*
"What purpose does it serve?"
"Perhaps it's a momentary relief from the existential terrors of existence."

Andrew INDIFFERENCE BannerIts not often, but Happy Feet Two provides the rare example of a film where people acknowledge how bored they are doing the film in the final product.  There are very few moments I can point to where this happens and even less in animated films where significant resources are devoted to production.  Sure, you have background jokes plastered in by overworked animators, but there's an entire subplot in HF2 about how pointless its own subplot is.

Before we jump into heavily meta territory, HF2 is not nearly as smart about its genre as, say, Scream or The Big Lebowski.  But every moment the krill characters voiced by Matt Damon and Brad Pitt (probably taking a break away from Soderbergh) are questioning what they're doing and why.  Its legit padding, in every sense of the application, to a film which would be barely an hour if those scenes didn't exist.  They're microscopic ex machnia, surviving the film long enough to justify their padding by pondering their otherwise worthless existence.

Danny and I have long joked that children's films aren't typically capable of providing an existential representation of death and isolation, but here we are at HF2 with a philosophically influenced viewpoint.  Its time for me and Danny to reframe the conversation and pose the question differently.  Is there a way a children's film could finally present these issues to kids and do it well?

HF 2 is most definitely not a good film.  The first movie won an Oscar during a particularly slow year for animation and when penguins were riding a big wave of popularity after March of the Penguins in 2005.  HF was not a bad movie, and had a good heart when it came to presenting an environmental message with some subtlety.  Still, it suffered from a post-Shrek infestation of ill-utilized popular culture references, nearly undermining the above average animation it was presented with.

There isn't as much to work with in this sequel, and instead of taking a cue from Shrek it seems director George Miller and his writing team took their direction from the success of Glee.  This does not lead to much of an improvement for the film, emphasizing outsized flamboyant caricature which would have fit in with Rio instead of the cold world of the penguins.   One or two characters like this is fine, but when you've got the chief trying to outdo the already garish Sven and other supporting characters the whole thing goes from an energetic exercise to a glam royalty debacle.

The animation team still hasn't figured out quite how to make the penguins differentiate from one another.  Seeing our protagonists alone, the only true identifying mark (save the colors of Sven) are the voices of the performers trying to give them some personality.  Mostly they succeed, even if Robin Williams' hyperactive unidentifiable foreign crazy shtick is really starting to wear on me.

The jukebox plays on with penguin accompaniment and eventually the penguins learn to survive by destroying their own environment in the process.  This thought process is still leaving me with a bit of a headache.  Its not as willfully destructive as the irresponsible philosophy behind Mr. Popper's Penguins (the worst of the suddenly crowded sub-genre of penguin films) but it betrays a very pessimistic ideology behind survival.

Our happy little penguins learn to live with their natural predators and destroy their home to continue living.  I know our environmental situation is grim, but do we have to present the slow destruction of the antarctic lands with a montage of "I Want To Know What Love Is" and "We Are The Champions?"  Its a strange double-edged sword because if the movie were traditionally "better" then it might be the most unsuccessful, depressing, and downright nihilistic kids film made but probably wouldn't have much of an audience.

All this is irrelevant to the film.  The occasional flashes of insight and boredom revealed by the krill are, once again, outshined by the endless song and dance sequences.  HF2 is a good babysitter for a tired parent and little else.  I'll just have to wait for someone else to give the Watership Down treatment to penguins.

Happy Feet Two (2011)
Directed by George Miller.
Screenplay by George Miller, Gary Eck, Warren Coleman, and Paul Livingston.
Featuring an ensemble cast led by Elijah Wood, Sofia Vergara, and Robin Williams.

Posted by Andrew

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  1. You’re not going to trick me into watching this, no matter how hard you frame its narrative against things that interest me!


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