Remember those giddy, penguin-crazy days of 2005-2006? Back then, simply the promise of a flightless seabird was enough to have us running to the cinema in droves.
But in an era of penguin fatigue it takes a lot more than that to impress– a fact that the makers of Happy Feet Two have been wise to acknowledge.
Our hero Mumbles (Elijah Wood) is now a father with an awkward, outcast son of his own to parent. Paternal wisdom doesn’t come naturally, however, and his spouse Gloria (Alecia ‘Pink’ Moore, replacing the late Brittany Murphy) is forever mediating father/son disputes.
Meanwhile Latin lover-man Ramon (Robin Williams) has competition in the form of an exotic flying penguin, and somewhere deep in the Antarctic Ocean, two tiny krill are questioning the very nature of existence.
All this is set against a backdrop of dramatic climate change that’s about to give everyone some much more immediate concerns.
There’s a moral here. In fact there are several: the importance of accepting your limitations, the power of team work, looking after the environment and so on, but you’d be forgiven for being distracted by the relentless fancy footwork (the penguins both sing and dance now).
The distinctly ‘80s flavour of these musical numbers suggests that someone at Warner Bros has the parents’ enjoyment in mind and older viewers may also enjoy matching big name actor to character voice. Alongside returnees Wood and Williams, the voice cast includes Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Hank Azaria.
Unlike the original Happy Feet, however, it’s not a showboating anthropomorphic Williams that’ll grab your attention – it’s the sheer spectacle. The crowd scenes would impress Cecil B. DeMille and the dance numbers could make Busby Berkeley envious.
Just when The Lion King’s 3D cash-in had audiences hankering for the simple pleasures of hand-drawn, Happy Feet Two is a timely reminder of what computer animation can really do.
This joyous, if garbled dance-a-thon barely pauses for breath, never mind plot exposition, but it’s exactly the kind of cinema-only experience that will have under-10s hooked on movies for life.