Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Happy Feet Two Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson

The sequel to Happy Feet, the Academy Award-winning animated smash hit, Happy Feet Two returns audiences to the magnificent landscape of Antarctica.  Mumble, The Master of Tap, has a problem because his tiny son, Erik, is choreo-phobic.  Reluctant to dance, Erik runs away and encounters The Mighty Sven – a penguin who can fly! Mumble has no hope of competing with this charismatic new role model.  But things get worse when the world is shaken by powerful forces.  Erik learns of his father’s “guts and grit” as Mumble brings together the penguin nations and all manner of fabulous creatures – from tiny Krill to giant Elephant Seals – to put things right.

Film (3 out of 5 stars) 

Despite boasting some excellent animation, Happy Feet Two can’t match it’s predecessor’s sense of fun, star power, or catchy songs.  In the first movie the young penguin Mumble (Elijah Wood) doesn’t fit in with the rest of the penguins because of his lack of ability to sing his “heartsong.”  His parents, Memphis (Hugh Jackman) and Norma Jean (Nicole Kidman) do their best to help their son as they also try not to be worried.  Of course, by the end of the movie, Mumble discovers that while he can’t sing, he can dance up a storm and he uses that to attract a mate named Gloria.  Now take that plot and reverse it and add in an even stronger environmental message and you have Happy Feet Two.
Now an adult, Mumble’s young son Erik has a similar issue.  Things have changed around the ice flow, and while Mumble once was laughed at for dancing, in the intervening time everyone now dances all the time.  For poor Erik, he’s been born in the wrong time since he can’t dance like his father. When Erik is gently prodded by Mumble to try to dance, he ends up embarrassing himself in front of the other penguins.  Ashamed, Erik and two of his friends follow their family friend Ramon (Robin Williams) to Adelie-Land because he believes he can’t get a mate either. Once they arrive in Adelie-Land, they discover that Lovelace (Robin Williams) has passed on his his leadership role to an odd looking penguin named “The Mighty Sven” (Hank Azaria) who is worshiped by the other penguins who hang on his every word.  Sven is also able to fly which makes him seem even more special among the flightless penguins.
Under the water, two krills named Will (Brad Pitt) and Bill (Matt Damon) are separated by the rest of the swarm and discover that they are simply easy pickings for other creatures to eat.  After watching the swarm of krills get decimated by predators, Will decides that his days at the bottom of the food chain are over.  He decides to change his life and become a vicious predator himself and Bill reluctantly follows him.  Meanwhile, Mumble finds Erik and is troubled to see his son under the influence of Sven.  Erik no longer wants to listen to his father and only returns home because Sven tells him to.  Mumble tries to reach Erik to reassure him that eventually he will learn what his talent is if he’s patient, but Erik only wants to believe in “Sven Think.”
On their way back home, they encounter Bryan the Beach Master (Richard Carter) on a treacherous ice bridge and he refuses to back up to let them pass.  When the ice bridge suddenly breaks and Bryan falls into a deep crevasse, Mumble decides to help Bryan so he can return to take care of his two young sons who witnessed his fall.  When Mumble does save him, Bryan promises that he will return the favor one day.  Mumble is discouraged to hear that his act of heroism is dismissed by Erik who attributes the rescue to the power of Sven Think.  When they finally return home, they discover that a large iceberg has trapped their fellow Emperor penguins in an enclosed area which prevents them from getting fish.  With only Erik, Mumble, and their two friends left to gather fish for thousands of penguins, it seems like a hopeless situation, especially when some predatory birds arrive to try to take advantage of the hungry and weak penguins.  But things aren’t quite as hopeless as it seems, since a favor given might be returned, which will prove that if everyone helps each other, amazing things can happen.
Happy Feet Two is very similar with the first movie but we some additional characters.  Both movies offer positive messages about community and self-worth along with a healthy dose of environmentalism.  This second movie seems to be a little more heavy-handed with its lessons but it has its heart in the right place.  There’s also less catchy songs this time around and some of the cast has changed too.  With the early deaths of Brittany Murphy and Steve Irwin and the briefest appearance by Jackman and Kidman, the movie has lost a lot of its charm.  The animation is better than ever however and it’s absolutely beautiful to watch.  The integration of live action along with the digital animation is flawless and impressive to see.  The final ending, while predictable, is still well executed but it doesn’t quite make up for the rest of the somewhat aimless plot.  I wouldn’t mind seeing a third one but I hope they spend more time on the script and recapture the original’s sense of fun.

Video (5 out of 5 stars)

Even though the movie should have been better, there’s no denying how good this Blu-ray transfer looks.  This 1080p (2.35:1) transfer is absolutely gorgeous to see.  Colors pop off the screen, vibrant and bold, and this transfer just reminds me how much I love watching digital animation on Blu-ray.  The detail level is simply pristine along with textures and contrast that are so good that it’s jaw-dropping.  The black levels are pitch black and suitably solid and consistenet throughout.  This is an incredible transfer that looks spectacular!

Audio (5 out of 5 stars) 

Happy Feet Two’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround mix is just as amazing as the picture quality.  This is a mix that uses every channel to its full potential to provide a completely immersive experience.  The LFE channel is a welcome and constant presence, while the front channels provide clear and understandable dialogue, and the rear channels add so much atmosphere that it will seem like you are there.  The directional effects are accurate and lively and hearing the the sound effects dance around the room along with the action on the screen was extremely cool.  Every wave crash, sea lion roar, every dance step, and more is clearly heard and makes its presence known.  The songs also sound incredible and fans of the movie should be ecstatic with this full-throated mix.

Extras (3 out of 5 stars) 

You’d think that there would be a lot of extras on a disc like this but alas it didn’t happen.  There’s some short featurettes, a welcome Warner Bros. cartoon, some songs, and the option to download the Happy Feet Two Movie App from iTunes.  At least these extras are in high definition.
  • Happy Feet Two Movie App, Second Screen – You can download the Happy Feet Two Movie app from the iTunes App Store for your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch to see an almost hour long prepared view of portions of the film.  There’s also  Second Screen extras that includes some additional  games, sing-a-longs, and more.
  • Behind the Story – The disc offers four short featurettes that includes:
    • Helping Penguins and Pals – lets kids see the real Antarctica.
    • How to Draw a Penguin – A lesson from concept artist Tim McEwen on how to draw Erik the penguin.
    • Running with Boadicea – A look at Boadicea’s exercise efforts.
    • The Amazing Voices of Happy Feet Two – A look at the actors doing their thing in the recording booth.
  • Music – If you liked the music of the movie, then you should check this section out as we get a  look at “P!nk’s New Song” and there’s also an additional three sing-a-longs songs including:
    • The Mighty Sven
    • Bridge of Light
    • Papa Oom Mow Mow
  • I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat – My favorite extra on the disc is this  CGI Looney Tunes cartoon with  Tweety and Sylvester.  Not only is this cool cartoon in high definition and sports a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, but even better it features the one and only Mel Blanc’s performance.
  • BD-Live

Summary (4 out of 5 stars) 

I didn’t enjoy Happy Feet Two as much as I liked the first one, but it does have its moments and I can’t say a bad thing about this Blu-ray’s audio and visual presentation.  This movie couldn’t look or sound any better than this but the extras on the disc could have been better.  By the way, don’t be fooled by the appearance of the words “Digital Copy” on the front because it isn’t referencing the usual iTunes Digital Copy, but instead the much despised and less user friendly Ultraviolet version.  I keep hoping that Warner Bros. and the other studios will abandon their Ultraviolet efforts and return to the traditional iTunes Digital Copy but so far no dice.  In any case, if you enjoyed the first movie or this sequel, then you should definitely pick this Blu-ray up!
Order your copy today!

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