Happy Feet Two
U; Animation, Musical
Dir: George Miller
Cast: (Voices of) Elijah Wood, Robin Williams, Alecia Moore, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Hugo Weaving, Hank Azaria, Ava Acres
Rating: **1/2

The animated films genre seems to have fine-tuned its cookie-cutter to perfection in recent times. One would imagine Happy Feet Two, a sequel to the heartwarming 2006 film that won an Oscar, to be the exception to this rule.

However, while this underperforming sequel features a few buoyant cinematic moments and splendid visual imagery, what it sorely lacks is a compelling story. The first film had its own charm in how it utilised the penguin's dance and turned it into a plot device. Here, the music and the dancing are incidental and much of the plot consists of half-baked life lessons for kids.

To make matters worse, composer John Powell, Hollywood's go-to guy for animated movie scores, does not rise to the occasion this time. Happy Feet Two has a few decent musical moments -- two of the most memorable ones make use of Queen's 'We Are The Champions' and Vanilla Ice's 'Ice, Ice Baby' -- but the rest are mostly unmemorable.

The story revolves around Emperor penguin Mumble (Wood) who's all grown up and settled since the first movie, as is his mate Gloria (Moore aka pop singer Pink, replacing the late Brittany Murphy). Together, the couple has a young chick named Erik (Acres), who, upset he can't tap-dance as well as his father, runs away from the colony. There, he meets the Mighty Sven (Azaria), a flamboyant Swedish 'penguin' with the 'magical' power of flight and a colourful 'beak'. Mumble, concerned at being an irresponsible parent eventually finds Erik, only to find himself upstaged by Sven in his son's eyes.

There is also an obligatory environmental angle. When Mumble goes in search of Erik, an ice shelf collides with Emperorland (where they all live) and ends up blocking the entire colony's access to the sea. Facing certain starvation, the penguins look to Mumble to save the day.

The gorgeous visuals, especially those involving two crustaceans named Will The Krill and Bill The Krill (voiced by Pitt and Damon respectively, who try their best to prop up what is essentially filler comic relief material), are the biggest redeeming factors of this movie. They're at their strongest when incorporating both live-action as well as motion capture, particularly when some nameless human characters are introduced. And finally, the voice acting is uniformly top-notch, with Williams predictably stealing the show as the lovelorn Ramon.