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 Home Video releases 'Happy Feet Two – 3D' to Blu-ray as a three-disc combo pack. The first two are Region Free, BD50 discs while the third is a DVD-5 copy of the movie. Housed in the normal blue keepcase, they are joined by a code for an UltraViolet Digital Copy and advertisements, and the package comes with a lenticular slipcover. At startup, the disc shows a promo trailer for 3D Blu-ray products and then switches to the standard menu selection with music and a still.
'Happy Feet Two' tap dances its way onto 3D Blu-ray with astounding results and incredible detailed clarity. The entire presentation is razor-sharp and lifelike. From the fluff of the penguin chicks to the wrinkles and scars on Bryan's thick, elephant-seal skin, there is much to take in, revealing the tremendous amount of work that into animating each creature. The picture also comes with amazing, pitch-perfect contrast, giving the white of the ice and snow a realistic and beautifully brilliant glow from beginning to end. Black levels, too, are inky rich and deeply penetrating with excellent gradational details within the various shades, adding a great deal of depth to the image. Primaries are cleanly rendered and magnificent, but secondary hues steal the show and are simply gorgeous. Even while wearing the dark glasses, there is so much to enjoy in the animation.
As for the 3D presentation, the visuals remain just as amazing and impressive. It's easy to see that the filmmakers and CG animators created scenes with 3D design in mind at all times. Wide shots of the Antarctic landscape come with remarkable dimensionality, reaching deep into the screen and creating a wonderful sense of the continent's immensity. Often, background objects seem genuinely distant from the foreground, and some characters appear to move within a three dimensional space. The transfer's best aspects come when The Mighty Sven flies through the sky or hovers in the middle of the screen. But the ultimate winner in the entire presentation are a pair of krill swimming in the ocean, creating some beautiful, jaw-dropping moments of pop-out effects. As they swim about the screen, they seem to move independently of the background and their antennae and eyes protrude into the viewer's face with terrific consistency.
If there are any nitpicks, they are very few and mostly negligible. There's a tiny bit of visible ghosting and noticeable ringing as a result of the strong contrast levels. With so much rapid movement and action throughout, I can only imagine the presentation will surely push one's display to the limits and could serve as an excellent disc to test how well it can handle crosstalk. But aside from that, the 3D picture quality is exceptional.
Unfortunately, the DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack accompanying the amazing video doesn't quite match its excellence. Most of the presentation takes place within the front speakers, displaying a great deal of movement and activity that's fluid and convincing. Imaging feels fairly expansive with lots warmth and comes with a strong presence. Dynamic range is clear and extensive, allowing for lots of clarity in the action and the orchestration in John Powell's score. Song selections also enjoy the spaciousness offered by the high-resolution codec, filling the soundstage flawlessly and subtly spreading into the side speakers to extend the soundfield. The low-end is probably the lossless mix's most impressive aspect, supplying the music with some deep bass and providing the few action sequences with a throaty, palpable weight which hits some surprisingly authoritative lows.
All things considered, the track is quite satisfying and sure to entertain listeners in general.
A small selection of supplements is shared with the day-and-date DVD release, which includes a code for an UltraViolet Digital Copy.
'Happy Feet Two' is the follow-up to the popular CG animated film about dancing penguins in Antarctica. Picking up pretty much where the first left off, the sequel isn't very good and is actually mostly dull, but it does have its moments, like the pair of krill philosophizing about their existential lives. The 3D Blu-ray, on the other hand, makes up for the movie's rather boring storyline with astounding 3D picture quality and an excellent audio presentation. Bonus material is mostly exclusive but also a bit on the average side, making the overall package worthwhile only for those hungering for more 3D material.
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.