3.5 out of 5 stars

Rated PG

Opening: Nov. 18

Starring: Elijah Wood

I wasn't sure if it was necessary to continue this chronicle of dancing penguins that are somehow up to date on contemporary music from the United States. Nevertheless, Director George Miller of the "Babe" movies has developed a sequel that's about as lively and fun as the original.

Elijah Wood is back as Mumble, the Emperor Penguin who compensates for his voice like nails on a chalkboard with the dancing skills of Fred Astaire. The singer Pink fills in for the late Brittany Murphy as Mumble's mate, Gloria. The two now have a little penguin named Erik, voiced by Ava Acres, who is having trouble fitting in with the colony like his father before him. Erik's insecurities have to be put on hold, however, when the world begins to shake and a majority of the Emperor Penguin colony is trapped. It's up to Mumble and friends to save the colony from the adapting world around them.

"Happy Feet Two" brings back several characters, including Robin Williams' hipster Adelie Penguin named Ramon, in addition to introducing several newcomers. Hank Azaria voices The Mighty Sven, a Puffin that tries to pass himself off as a flying penguin. Sven faces a similar dilemma to Rocky's in "Chicken Run" when the penguins ask him to teach them to fly. Ramon is also given a potential love interest with Carmen, a sexy penguin played by Sofia Vergara, who's a natural to do voice-over work since she already speaks like a cartoon character.

The real scene-stealers in "Happy Feet Two" are Brad Pitt and Matt Damon as a pair of krill named Will and Bill. Nobody would ever expect krill to make for compelling characters. Even "Finding Nemo," a film that brought together all the creatures of the sea, reduced the species to a thankless walk-on role. But the diminutive, bug-eyed Will and Bill are an endearing contribution to the series, as they break free of their school to find a higher purpose in life. It is a joy to observe the world from Will and Bill's point of view as they survive being eaten by a whale and ride on the back of a seal. All that's missing is George Clooney doing the voice of a third krill.

The premise and morals of "Happy Feet Two" may not be ground breaking. Matters can even get repetitive at times since most of the characters are confined to one era. But I think the strength of this franchise lies more in the quality of animation and music than story. On that basis, "Happy Feet Two" is indeed a splendid experience to witness.

The landscapes are as marvelous as ever and the choreography makes the moves in a "Step Up" movie look like armature hour. The performances are all genuine, unlike in most modern animated films where the celebrity voices feel forced and random. What the film lacks in narrative it certainly makes up for in its musical numbers, most notably an original song, called "Bridge of Light." This is wholesome family entertainment for the holidays, which almost makes up for the drab "Mr. Popper's Penguins" from last summer.

• Nick Spake is a college student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for five years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com. Reach him


(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.