Posts Tagged ‘Happy Feet Two’


happy-feet-two10Five years ago I wrote, “Penguins are the new dogs. Not since the heyday of dog movies like Benji and Lassie has one species won over the hearts of so many. “ Penguins were all the rage, appearing in movies as diverse as “March of the Penguins,” the R-rated parody of that movie, “Farce of the Penguins,” family flicks like “Madagascar,” even something called “Penguins Behind Bars” and, of course the Oscar winning dancing penguin movie “Happy Feet.” You couldn’t swing a haddock without hitting a flock of movie penguins, but that was in 2006. The question today is, will people still want to watch waist-coaters do the soft shoe?

“Happy Feet Two” is a series of stories set against a similar theme. Eric (Elizabeth Daily), the son of Mumble (Elijah Wood) and Gloria (Pink) doesn’t have the natural grace of his dad, and like all kids is slightly embarrassed of his old man. Meanwhile Bill and Will (Matt Damon and Brad Pitt), leave the krill swarm, they have grown up in to make a life for themselves in the outside world and the Mighty Swen (Hank Azaria), an odd looking penguin, impresses Eric with his ability to fly. When a catastrophic natural disaster threatens the very existence of the penguin population, however, Eric, the krill and Swen learn what it really means to be a part of something large than yourself.

The original “Happy Feet” and its sequel don’t look or feel like other movies for kids. Director George “Mad Max” Miller is a maximalist director who opens up the usual kid flick palette with swooping cameras, wide-open vistas and beautifully effective 3D. Featuring a cast of thousands—animated penguins as far as the eye can see and “krillions” of krill—the movie is made on a scale that would make Cecil B. DeMille proud.

Story wise the movie also takes a different approach. It’s a blend of musical theatre—many of the story points are introduced or at last supported by epic tunes—inspired by the Emperor penguins who use heart songs to attract mates—and some traditional family themes—father and son conflict, the importance of family—but Miller also digs a little deeper and really examines why people form families.

Mix in a “free to be me and you” subplot about the consequences of conformity and a subtle environmental message and you have a movie that dispenses with the easy morality of most animated films. Who else but Miller would create Bill and Will, two new bug-eyed characters who can only be described as existential shrimps? Actually they are krill, a tiny marine crustacean, but just because they are small doesn’t mean they don’t have aspirations. And most of the movie’s best lines. They banter back and forth like Ionesco and Beckett discussing the vagaries of their limited lives. “I fear the worst,” says Will, “because fearing the best is a waste of time!” Small but mighty they are a highlight of the film.

“Happy Feet Two” is a step above most kid’s movies. It is joyful, beautiful to look at, and has more to say about life, love and the pursuit of happiness than most movies aimed at adults.

Go for the penguins, stay for the krill!

A ‘krilling’ adventure RICHARD CROUSE METRO CANADA Published: November 14, 2011

tumblr_mfwvxkoG0j1qzdicao1_400“One thing I am drawn to unconsciously is the hero myth,” says director George Miller.

Looking over his resumé it’s easy to see what he means. His creations, like Mad Max, who ruled a dystopian Australian landscape from the driver’s seat of a Ford Falcon XB Coupe and Babe, the king of the barnyard, are agents of change in their own worlds.

In his new film, Happy Feet Two, the follow up to the Oscar winning dancing penguin musical of 2006, you’ll have to look closely to see his heroes, because they are the smallest creatures in the movie.

They are Bill and Will (Matt Damon and Brad Pitt), two bug-eyed characters who can only be described as existential shrimps. Actually, they’re krill – a minute marine crustacean.

“Happy Feet Two is not a saga,” he says. “It’s not the hero myth, except from the point of Will the Krill. From his point of view the world is epic because they are so tiny. He goes off on a classic hero myth, going out, looking into the unknown, confronting great dangers and bringing a boon back to his world.

“Because the film takes place in a truncated time period it was important to make it epic from some point of view. From the krill’s point of view it’s a very big world — universe — out there. We saw them like space explorers wanting to go out beyond their world.”

The krill may leave their flock — the “krillions” of krill they live with — to go on a journey, but Miller says the point of the story has more to do with family than heroes.

“They begin by being torn apart in some way,” he says, “and it is only in the coming together that they are able to solve the problem.”

For Miller, Happy Feet Two was a bit of a family affair, but not intentionally. He says he turned to his daughter to write the lyrics of the show-stopping tune Eric’s Opera because he was desperate.

“We had three very well-known writers who have written musicals in Australia to try and write some lyrics and it just wasn’t working,” he says. “It was over elaborate so I called her and said, ‘Can we just sit down together and work through it.’ In two hours she had it, but it was more out of desperation than wanting specifically to work with my daughter.”