Warner Bros, 2011
Voices of Ava Acres, Elijah Wood, Hank Azaria, and Robin Williams
Directed by George Miller
Music and Lyrics by various
Talk of a sequel began almost as soon as the first film was one of the biggest successes of 2006. It wasn't quite as easy as it seemed to get everything back together. Two cast members passed away before recording began; others declined a second round. The motion capture that looked so incredible just a few years before had also come under fire with a series of flops, including one that year. How does the tale of Mumble (Wood) and his son Erik (Acres) look after all that trouble? Let's return to Antarctica for a major penguin dance routine and find out...
The Story: Erik isn't a dancer like his father or most of the other penguins. He's at a loss to figure out what he can do until he sees Sven (Azaria), a puffin passing himself off as a penguin, fly. Sven and Lovelace (Williams) fled humans who saved them from an oil spill, ending up back in Antarctica. Erik thinks that flying is the answer when the Emperor penguins are trapped after the ice around them shifts. Mumble knows penguins can't fly and tries to dance...but when he hurts himself, it'll take him, Erik, a herd of elephant seals, and two little krill to prove that even the smallest step can make the biggest difference.
The Animation: Once again, this is where the film excels. Antarctica is rendered beautifully, especially the greenish ice that breaks off where the penguins are trapped. The motion capture is a bit better done. They really did amazing things with the crowds of animals here, getting them all dancing in unison (even the krill). Even the humans in their brief appearances seem slightly less creepy.
The Song and Dance: Along with the animation, the best thing about this is the decent cast. Pink replaces the late Brittany Murphy well enough (especially in her numbers), while Azaria attempts a Norwegian accent as the con artist puffin who convinced the penguins he's a demigod. Brad Pitt and Matt Damon have more fun as Will and Bill the Krill, the latter of whom is determined to move up the food chain. Acres is an adorable little Erik, and Richard Carter lends gravitas to the role of Bryan the Beach Master elephant seal. And at the very least, the attempts to toss in an environmental message are a lot more subtle this time.
Favorite Number: The penguins really get into their opening medley, as we see how they've changed since the previous movie and are introduced to Erik and his lack of dancing ability. "The Mighty Sven" is Azaria and Williams' retelling of how they escaped the humans. Pink's ballad "Bridge of Light" encourages the other penguins to hold on when they're all frightened of being trapped forever. Queen's "Under Pressure" and "Rhythm Nation" by Janet Jackson provide the backdrop for the big finale, in which all of the animals in the Antarctic - even the tiniest krill - help shift the ice and free the penguins.
What I Don't Like: When the story isn't retreading the first movie, it's a crashing bore. I don't care if the krill wants to move up in the food chain or the Adelie penguins are still chasing mates. It lacks the charm and near-documentary feel of the first one. Mumble's problems with his son and the penguins getting stuck in the grotto lacks the suspense and drama of Mumble being cast out and their food supply running low.
The Big Finale: Ok time-waster if you have kids who loved the first one or really love the cast; not necessary for anyone else.
Home Media: Easily found on all formats, including bundled with the original film in two collections.