Review: 'Happy Feet Two'

(Two-and-a-half stars)

If you've ever wanted to see Brad Pitt and Matt Damon play life partners, now's your chance: Hustle on down to the multiplex to see "Happy Feet Two."

OK, so they do so in the form of two krill traveling through Antarctic waters in the company of a giant swarm of invertebrates, but their double act is no less amusing as the obviously committed friends offer each other moral support and sing swatches of pop tunes. And this should come as no surprise to viewers of the 2006 movie "Happy Feet," which, like its sequel, has for its director George Miller ("Mad Max") and features movie stars singing mashups as the voices of animated critters (not my favorite trend in animated film, but whaddaya gonna do?).

Elijah Wood returns as the voice of Mumble, now a penguin dad fretting over the direction of his son Erik (Ava Acres). Erik fears he has two left not-so-happy feet, but he excitedly latches onto an impossible dream of flight. An airborne puffin named The Mighty Sven (Hank Azaria) passes as a penguin, causing the confusion, but more intimidating problems face "the Penguin Nation" in the form of a dangerously shifting landscape (due to climate change) and how best to get the attention of passing humans (depicted mostly in live action).

One of the main attractions here, at least for kids, is Robin Williams, reprising his double role of Mumble's Argentinian buddy Ramon and jumbo-sized penguin preacher Lovelace. Mumble's mate Gloria is in the picture (with Pink subbing in for the late Brittany Murphy), while new girl Carmen (voiced by Sofia Vergara of TV's "Modern Family") rubs noses with Ramon. Again supplying behind-the-scenes oomph are top choreographers, including Savion Glover.

For the "Happy Feet" franchise is all about celebrating dance, anticipating "Glee"'s similar (and, for some, similarly annoying) celebration of popular song. Songs ranging from "Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow" to a Puccini aria play important roles, but it's mostly about the tapping penguin claws and hip-hop-popping flippers, as waves of computer-generated penguins boogie for the delight of young audiences against a photo-real Antarctic backdrop.

Adults who venture here will wonder if Miller has "lost the plot," since the somewhat redundant, narratively sluggish "Happy Feet Two" doesn't really have one. Instead, it has what feels like dozens of micro-storylines, including the journey of Will the Krill (Pitt) and Bill the Krill (Damon), all dovetailing in an extended climax before being tied in a bow.

So why do these penguins dance? One theory goes that "it's a momentary relief from the existential terrors of existence," while another puts it more simply: "It brings out my happy." For kids facing a potentially rough adulthood, it's probably a message worth hearing, maybe more than once.

Rated PG for some rude humor and mild peril. 1 hour, 40 minutes.

— Peter Canavese

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