MCN Columnists
Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington

Wilmington on Movies: Happy Feet Two

Happy Feet Two (Three Stars)
U.S.: George Miller, 2011
I’ve got to admit: The first ten minutes or so of Happy Feet Two had me worried — even though I was quite partial to the first 2006 installment of the original, George Miller’s 2006 tale of a tap-dancing penguin named Mumble (voiced by Elijah Wood). But this sequel’s super-busy opening shots, with thousands of cute little penguins dancing in unison in a spectacular Antarctican long shot, pounding and shuffling and flapping away to Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation, made the movie look as if it was going to be pretty hard to keep track of any of the little critters, much less to get really involved in whatever new story they were bringing on.
I had loved the first Happy Feet, which deserved the best animated feature Oscar it won — loved its sass and brashness and joyous wit, its unabashed pro-ecology theme, and its incredibly virtuosic animation. (The water visuals in the first Happy Feet alone are worth a cheer). But…
Nothing in life or movie sequels is certain, and I couldn’t get into those opening scenes, with the movie’s huge (now augmented) dramatis personae and its super-scads of extras. Director/producer/co-writer George Miller may have a top-chop track record: all three Mad Max Movies, plus the two Babes (only one of which he directed), plus the first Happy Feet, plus Lorenzo‘s Oil and The Witches of Eastwick. But when it comes to endless-looking shots of animated penguins, much less an animated swarm of krill (which this movie also has), more might well be less, and vice might well be versa.

The plot seemed a little dicey too: yet another story about a outsider penguin, this time non-dancing little Erik (Ava Acres), the pipsqueak progeny of Happy Feet’s tap-dancing’ star Mumble and his wife Gloria (voiced and sung by Pink, replacing the late Brittany Murphy) and about Erik’s attempt to find his place in a world full of vast dancing ensembles of emperor penguins, along with surly elephant seals, con artist puffins, and globally warmed ice-walls that go sliding off into the sea, trapping everybody on an ice and snow island with no food supply.

Like the first Happy Feet, which angered some anti-ecology types, Happy Feet Two has a strong pro-ecology theme, triggered by all that melting Antarctica ice. It says that all of us — penguins and we contentious humans too — have to pull together to survive: a message that should actually appeal to lots of us, and apparently did the last time out — except possibly anyone who might be mightily miffed by the movie’s global warming angle, and possibly by the sympathy shown to Latino penguins like fiery Ramon (Robin Williams), none of whom are deported to the South Pole.

Oh, and then there’s the two krill, Will the Krill (Brad Pitt) and Bill the Krill (Matt Damon), who break away from their swarm in the ocean and try to follow their dream (or Will’s dream that is, since Bill is a Will-follower), while engaging in pun-strewn badinage that includes the not-quite-priceless “one in a krillion.” There’s Mighty Sven the flying penguin, voiced by Hank Azaria in a pseudo-Scandinavian accent that reminded me a little of actor John Qualen‘s immortal “By Yabber! By Yimminy!” Swedes for John Ford. And did I say that Little Erik gets to sing a Puccini aria, like Pavarotti? (From “Tosca,” yet.)

All of that may sound overly complicated and pretty confusing and possibly annoying, especially for a feature cartoon that will count many simple pleasure-seeking tots among its audience. But, since I liked Happy Feet One so much, I stuck it out, contented myself with a few stray “wows” at the movie‘s incredible technical feats. And when Feet Two began to get really good — in the krill scenes and the one where Erik and his chums face a growly old elephant seal named Bryan the Beachmaster (very well voiced by Richard Carter) I was ready to enjoy myself. And I did.

By the way, when I began to warm up to Happy Feet Two (not globally, but emotionally), I also decided that Pitt and Damon, miscast as they both might initially seem as krill, actually do a great job playing lowest-food-chain organisms. , I tell you, these two guys: They krilled me. But, after all, they do both work in an industry where it’s krill or be krilled. (Okay, I’ll stop. But they don‘t.)

Richard Corliss was right. The animation is splendid, the music is peachy, the voice actors are keen, especially Carter and Azaria and Pink. (Not that Corliss uses adjectives like “peachy” and “keen.” But Happy Feet Two, however rotten-tomatoed it might have been, is yet another feature cartoon that should please most adults more than many adult movies. Unless, of course, you are one of the anti-Global Warming crowd (or maybe, I should say one of the pro-Global Warming crowd) who become violently offended at the Happy Feet saga’s strong environmental messages

That would, of course include commentator Glenn Beck, who, on his old prime time cable TV commentary show, occasionally went into purple-faced rants about Happy Feet and global warming, and the alleged Marxist propaganda fueling both. Now, I would think if there was anyone on Earth in whose wayward footsteps a movie critic of any political persuasion would not want to follow, it’s the tantrum-tossing Beck — a guy, by the way, whose two favorite movies are the liberal screen and TV writer Rod Serling’s Planet of the Apes (the Charlton Heston version) and Tango and Cash, which was directed by a Russian, Andrei Konchalovsky. I also think the various Happy Feet conspiracy theories, much like the Shakespeare-was an illiterate-murderer-and-the-Earl-of-Oxford-wrote-all-his-plays theory espoused by Roland Emmerich’s godawful stinker Anonymous, is pretty silly.

But what do I know? I never made a million dollars. Or was named Earl of Oxford. Or ghosted for Shakespeare. (Or Glenn Beck). Or had a cable show. And I didn’t sneer when these penguins danced on ice to Queen‘s “We are the Champions” — though I could have.
But, when the credits finally rolled, I liked Happy Feet Two — and that movie of course will make many many millions. Well, sometimes a show earns its keep. Just as sometimes a penguin earns his/her happy dancing feet. Or opera pipes. Or fish transport medals. Or wings. Or audience. And this one‘s a kriller-diller. (I’m sorry! I’ll quit it!)


Be Sociable, Share!

One Response to “Wilmington on Movies: Happy Feet Two”

  1. Movie says:

    I would love for the trio to make a “Before” film every 9 years until all of them are old and gray. Being close to the same age as the characters, it is like watching snippets of your life unfold on screen, from being young and impressionable romantics to jaded grown-ups who realize some of your dreams and fantasies to do not come true and hw you deal with it.Add movie showtimes to iGoogle


awesome stuff. OK I would like to contribute as well by sharing this awesome link, that personally helped me get some amazing and easy to modify. check it out at All custom premade files, many of them totally free to get. Also, check out Dow on: Wilmington on DVDs: How to Train Your Dragon, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Darjeeling Limited, The Films of Nikita Mikhalkov, The Hangover, The Human Centipede and more ...

cool post. OK I would like to contribute too by sharing this awesome link, that personally helped me get some amazing and easy to customize. check it out at All custom templates, many of them dirt cheap or free to get. Also, check out Downlo on: Wilmington on Movies: I'm Still Here, Soul Kitchen and Bran Nue Dae

awesome post. Now I would like to contribute too by sharing this awesome link, that personally helped me get some beautiful and easy to modify. take a look at All custom premade files, many of them free to get. Also, check out DownloadSoho.c on: MW on Movies: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, Paranormal Activity 2, and CIFF Wrap-Up

Carrie Mulligan on: Wilmington on DVDs: The Great Gatsby

isa50 on: Wilmington on DVDs: Gladiator; Hell's Half Acre; The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

Rory on: Wilmington on Movies: Snow White and the Huntsman

Andrew Coyle on: Wilmington On Movies: Paterson

tamzap on: Wilmington on DVDs: The Magnificent Seven, Date Night, Little Women, Chicago and more …

rdecker5 on: Wilmington on DVDs: Ivan's Childhood

Ray Pride on: Wilmington on Movies: The Purge: Election Year

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon