Happy Feet Two
2011, 99 min.
Back to Antarctica for this second helping of “The Dance of the Penguins,” the voices are in fine form (notably Robin Williams as the love-crazed Ramon and camping it up as Lovelace while Brad Pitt and Matt Damon as Will the Krill and Bill the Krill, respectively, slip marvellously close into the love that dare not swim its name) but—astonishingly given the army of personnel making the credits nearly as long as the film—Mumble’s (Elijah Wood) tap sequences are miles from being fully formed, much less in sync.
Mixing in global warming messages infuses the production with a cautionary tone on many levels, but it’s John Powell’s original score (along with Alecia Moore’s and Billy Mann’s infectious song, “Feeding the Light”) coupled with inventive choreography that gives this version a lift and, truly, fun for the whole family. JWR
Puss in Boots
2011, 90 min.
For this decidedly animated take on the 1697 original by Charles Perrault, Chris Miller opts to emphasize the sensual (Salma Hayek is note-“purrfect” as Kitty Softpaws) and power of deceit (in this incarnation, the dastardly Humpty Dumpty proves conclusively he’s not all he’s cracked up to be thanks in large part to Zach Galifianakis’ deft characterization and the roly-poly visuals from the designers and animation team). Keeping everything driving forward is the ideally nuanced voice of Antonio Banderas in the title role. Throughout, there are lots of double entendres for the adults and pun-rich egg “yuks” for all. A morality play to be sure, but perhaps one less inclined to virtue than (as with Win Win
, cross-reference below
) achieving the desired outcome no matter “what the f*%$ it takes.” JWR
Kung Fu Panada 2
Jennifer Yuh Nelson
2011, 91 min.
With an all-star voice cast (including Jack Black as pugnacious panda Po, Angelina Jolie playing the alluring, loyal-to-a-fault Tigress, Dustin Hoffman as the wily Shifu, Gary Oldman turning in a typically credible reading—this time as the evil Shen—and veteran Jackie Chan proving to be a most engaging Monkey) behind a visual tour de force (led by Raymond Zibach’s production-design smarts and Tang Kheng Heng’s brilliantly realized art direction) and a full-bore score (John Powell and Hans Zimmer) that takes no prisoners, this film fires on nearly every cylinder. Po’s mantra “My fist lusts for justice” (even if tempered by one of many bowel sound effects) and the preponderance of deadly encounters in battle (this Weapon of Mass Destruction is no political invention), yield some moments of cheer for bullies, tyrants, self-appointed do-gooders and warriors with any-sort-of-god-on-my-side alike. While the bad guys—of course—get their comeuppance, the bitter taste of defeat will likely spawn an even greater avalanche of revenge when “conditions are right.” It’s a situation not unknown to China since the age of The Warring States (fifth century to unification in 221 B.C.) and still wreaking havoc with the planet even as we speak. Rather than perpetuate that seemingly unstoppable onslaught of I am/know better than you, one can only wonder if cinematic animation might find a new path, one far removed from the sadly lucrative video-game market. Plus ça change …. JWR