Without question, 'Happy Feet Two' is one of the very worst animated family flicks I've ever seen. It's a jumbled mess that I'd put right on par with 'Hoodwinked Too!' Storywise, 'Happy Feet Two' is made of the same zero-star ingredients, but with colorful, vibrant and (mostly) highly detailed animation and a new pair of side characters worth mentioning, it earns a single star for at least trying – unlike 'Hoodwinked Too!'
Even if a movie looks terrible based upon its trailers, I still try to give it shot. I've seen plenty of awful-looking movies that turned out to be decent and plenty of promising films that end up being major disappointments. Surprise is always good, so I'll give anything a shot. I failed to screen 'Happy Feet Two' theatrically when press screenings were held, but the word-of-mouth was so bad that I wasn't too upset. Having now seen it, I'd have to say that it is even worse than I imagined and anyone described.
Every generic animated family film is obligated to include at least one dance sequence, but 'Happy Feet Two' goes the extra mile to include just as many awful musical renditions as possible – only one of which is actually worthwhile. The movie opens with a larger than life medley of popular songs, some of which I – as a parent – deem mildly inappropriate. I don't know that I want my four-year-old daughter watching a bunch of kid penguins dancing around singing Justin Timberlake's "Sexyback" and other suggestive songs.
Rivaling the annoying nature of the pointless song and dance scenes are the voices. The actors who lend their voices to the movie are great, but the dialects that they apply are annoying. You would think that all the penguins from the same colony would carry the same accent, but they don't. The fact that more than half of the accents are so bad that you cannot understand them hurts the movie. Only making matters worse is the tweaking of the voices, the adjustment of pitch and tone, that make them even less intelligible. There are very few characters in the movie that don't feature the distracting tweaks.
I call 'Happy Feet Two' a jumbled mess because it's a meandering slew of characters and subplots that take the longest road possible in getting to its message and climax. The majority of the plot stems from a baby emperor penguin who doesn't fit in with the rest of the colony – he can't dance. Any time he tries, it results in embarrassing failure, like him peeing all over himself. After this, his biggest embarrassment yet, he and his two best friends run away and follow the village idiot to another colony. There, they meet an inspiring penguin who can fly, but it isn't long before the runt's dad shows up to bring them home.
While the runaways are out, global warming results in an island-sized chunk of a glacier breaking off into the sea. Becoming an iceberg, that mountainous ice cube moves through the sea with momentum, ultimately colliding with the shoreline where the emperor colony lies. Slamming into both sides of the mountain that created the subtle beach home for the penguins, their crescent-shaped cove is instantly converted into a completely enclosed crater. When dad and the three runaways get back, they discover that all of their family and friends are trapped – no way in, no way out – and it won't be long before the harsh winter storms arrive. Thanks to a parkour-practicing freerunning baby penguin, the best they can do is hope for her to quickly retrieve help from the flying penguin's colony.
The humor in 'Happy Feet Two' is comparable to that of Adam Sandler and Kevin James' most recent films – there are a lot of low-brow pee and poo jokes and a lot of people falling down. The classless and effortless form of so-called entertainment doesn't match the mold of the "humans are destroying the world" messages of the 'Happy Feet' movies.
The animation and design is wildly colorful and very pleasing to the eye, but when humans enter the picture, they detract from the one good thing that 'Happy Feet Two' has going for it – it's look. For some unexplained reason, the live-action humans are shown in black & white, choppy and unnatural filming.
Also helping earn the film its single star are two tiny characters who deserve their own animated shorts in the future – krill Bill and Will, voiced by Matt Damon and Brad Pitt. Hellbent on defying the circle of life, they break free from the swarm on a journey of hilarious existential self discovery. Although they are completely entertaining, Bill and Will add to the long list of unnecessary peripheral characters that bog down 'Happy Feet Two.' I doubt they could carry a feature-length film on their own, but there's no reason why they couldn't be used as Warner Bros. animated shorts that run before WB family films.
With every studio churning out animated family films, the amount of time between their releases is very short. If you're up to date on family release but want to get something new for the kids, skip 'Happy Feet Two' and wait for the next great thing. While it's sure to entertain your naïve kids, I highly doubt that you will want this annoying musical constantly playing in the background.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Warner Bros. has given 'Happy Feet Two' a combo pack release that includes a BD-50, a DVD and a code to redeem an Ultraviolet copy of the film. All is housed in an eco-friendly two-disc blue keepcase that slides vertically into a shiny, reflective, glossy and embossed cardboard slipcase. Before getting to the ugly main menu, you'll want to skip over the FBI warning, a firmware disclaimer, a Warner Bros. vanity reel, a Warner Bros. Blu-ray trailer and a preview for the 'Happy Feet Two' video game.
'Happy Feet Two' is available on Blu-ray Combo pack, DVD and for download 3/13. Fans may want to check out the free 'Happy Feet Two' movie app for iPhone, iPad and iPad Touch. The app synchs with the Blu-ray disc to provide enhanced content and interactive features.
'Happy Feet Two' has been given a sharp and vibrant 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. As is, it's an exemplary Blu-ray – but had one aspect of the animation been heightened, this would be demo-worthy video quality at its finest.
Everything in 'Happy Feet Two' looks realistic and highly detailed – that is, except for the animated animals. The opening sequence shows droplets of water falling onto the surface of the glass-like ocean. From the falling drops the ripples that shoot out and disrupt the peacefully mirror-like surface, it looks as real as a nature documentary. The scenery always looks this sharp. It's just a shame that you can't say the same for the characters.
Featuring furry penguin central characters, you'd expect their gray fluffy pre-feather fuzz to feature a plush and lifelike texture, but it doesn't. In fact, Sully from ten-year-old 'Monsters Inc.' shows off a higher quality of animation than the young penguins here. Cursed be Pixar and DreamWorks for raising the bar so high!
All colors are rich and alive, featuring bold and strong saturation levels. Blacks are inky and deep. But the black & white humans looks eerie, almost like they're covered in silver make-up or paint. I'm sure this was a directorial decision to make the colors of the animals pop more, but it sure doesn't look very good.
The image is void of banding, but aliasing is a problem that arises from time to time in dense feathers and fur and in tight patterns, like that of a screen covering a guitar amplifier. (Yes, they managed to put a guitar amp somewhere in the movie.) Luckily, aliasing is the only real flaw with the video quality.
Since music is one of the most common strong uses of audio, you can be sure that this 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track isn't lacking in that area. The music is definitely the strongest aspect of this mix. It's well spread throughout the channels and extremely dynamic. If only there wasn't a monotonous "Stomp" sound to 95 percent of it. It's no wonder why there were only two nominees for Best Original Song at the Oscars – 'Happy Feet Two' sure didn't warrant a nomination.
The effects are also strongly mixed, but not as frequent as they could/should be. Some instances offer seamless examples of imaging – like seals chasing schools of fish and swarms of krill – but there aren't enough non-music example of sounds emitting from the surround and rear channels. The music is the only sound consistently present in all channels. However, the effects make strong use of bass and low frequency sounds.
As I mentioned in the review, the majority of the vocals aren't great. When the bad accents aren't leaving lines of dialog inaudible, it's the range tweaking that hurts it. Brad Pitt's voice is unadjusted for the most part, but is randomly tweaked in pitch for no reason during certain scenes. Some voices are distorted more than others. I dare you to watch this film and tell me that you understood every line uttered.
Another odd aspect of the vocals is how they're mixed. One instance occurs in the very beginning of the film. Our three penguins kids are shown on screen from the high angle perspective of an adult penguin. Although all three are physically located in the center of the screen. The vocals of the kid in the middle emit from the center channel, the kid on the right emits from the right surround channel and the left from the surround left. Causing a distraction, this mix is a little too extreme.
The audio mix is good, but feels at times like it was mixed by a couple amateurs.
'Happy Feet Two' is the antithesis of 'Rango.' People were entertained by 'Rango' because it played out like an adult western and not some lowest-common-denominator kid flick. Filled with countless characters, song and dance numbers and sub-plots – none of which are memorable (with the exception of Bill and Will) – this is the sort of annoying kid's flick that I'm trying my hardest to keep out of my house. 'Happy Feet Two' is the type of movie that I'd rather not have my kids watching day-in and day-out. The beautiful and highly detailed landscapes of the film are quite remarkable, but the animation of its characters is a step back for CG animation. The music is utterly repetitive and forgetful. And the majority of the not-so-special features are aimed at kids. As a parent, I don't want to take my kids to a movie that I'm going to despise; therefore, why would I want to own it? This is for fans only, otherwise, skip it.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.