From Mary-Kate Olsen, the top-hat wearing witch in Beastly, to Jordana Spiro, the ball gown-stealing crack addict in Trespass, Hollywood occasionally provides audiences with a gift. Sometimes a film seems to say, "Thanks for sitting through this lackluster picture. Here's an eyeful of Jason Statham's pecs, or some snazzy Christian Laboutin shoes. Will you delay killing yourself for a little while longer?" The answer is yes, Hollywood, I will put down my sharp object and live to spend another two hours in the dark, this time with your dancing penguins.
I didn't care for the first Happy Feet because I don't like being coaxed into liking a movie just because it has cute computer generated penguins singing pop songs. Likewise, the sequel just repurposes the same tactics, going heavy on the songs and light on the humor. This film also includes a vague finger-wagging to global warming, as the ice is shifting and endangering the penguins. But a major difference is that this film includes more characters, which is usually to its detriment. The only ones worthy of a sequel are the krill named Will and Bill, played by Brad Pitt and Matt Damon, respectively. Will is suffering from an existential crisis that causes him to leave the swarm that keeps him so insulated. Bill is his sidekick, uncertain but intrigued, and together, they ponder their place in the ocean, as well as how to eat a nice carnivorous dinner for once.
Performing in what they called the "No Shame Zone," these two old buddies compartmentalize the film into "Pixar Quality" vs. "Some Personified Animals Bouncing Around." Every time they show up on screen with word play ("One in a krill-ion") and a desire to expand their minds, the film becomes delightful. When they leave the swarm to see what lies beyond, Will wants to become a hunter because he has no fear and is unaware of any boundaries nature may have placed on him. Like a child, he pushes the limits of what he knows and ends up having one heck of a time. The kind of rapport that these two characters have is the real deal, and the rest of the movie pales next to it.
Toward the end, once the penguins stop singing Top 40 hits and instead do things to really surprise the audience (like busting out some opera), it becomes much more palatable. Is it shiny, fun, and loud for the kids? Yes. Will Robin Williams make you chuckle while he does a foreign accent? Sure. Is the tiniest penguin adorable? Absolutely. But the only characters I want to see are the ones that might go great with cocktail sauce.