| Sequels rarely measure up to the original and this animated family-friendly follow-up to the 2006 Academy Award-winning smash hit is no exception. It falls way short in comparison.
Tap-dancing Emperor penguin Mumble (voice of Elijah Wood who played Frodo in “The Lord of the Rings”) and songstress Gloria (voice of Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Alecia “Pink” Moore replacing the late Brittany Murphy) are now a couple. Their first offspring Erik (voice of Ava Acres) suffers from the same insecurities as his father. He can’t dance and gets laughed at for being different.
Feeling like an outcast, Erik runs away from home. He ends up in neighboring Adelieland. Audiences are reunited with Latin-lover Adelie penguin Ramon and his four amigos along with the wacky Rockhopper guru Lovelace. Robin Williams once again does double duty as the comedic voice of both Ramon and Lovelace.
Erik finds a new role model in the Mighty Sven (voice of Hank Azaria), a charismatic Swedish puffin passing himself off as a penguin with the show-off capability of being able to fly.
The bigger storyline involves a massive ice-shelf collapse that separates Emperor Land from the rest of the Antarctic land mass. Gloria and the rest of the Emperor penguins are trapped with no way out.
It is up to Mumble and Erik to come up with a rescue plan to save their species from extinction. They turn to the giant Elephant Seals led by Bryan the Beachmaster (voice of Richard Carter) for help.
This cheap knockoff has the same energy and spirit of exuberance, but the flimsy story is not as strong as its predecessor. The movie suffers from cliché-ridden dialogue after exhilarating highs from a string of big musical numbers featuring choreographed dancing.
Besides the attention-grabbing opening and closing group medleys, the movie’s crowning glory occurs when Pink sings “Bridge of Light,” an emotionally hopeful ballad about how only love can build a bridge of light. This musical highlight is cast in the glow of the northern lights in the background.
The movie’s strengths include the motion capture technology that makes for precise and lifelike anthropomorphic character movements, the spectacular scenic Antarctic landscapes, the intricate artwork designs and the talented vocal ensemble.
This sequel has too many unnecessary episodic subplots, especially one involving a crustacean duo voiced by Brad Pitt and Matt Damon, which add nothing to the main thrust of the film and serve merely as diversions to pad the 99-minute running time.
Live-action human beings also make an appearance, but it is less effective since the fresh and original surprise element is missing.
Despite the lazy storytelling more appropriate for a direct-to-DVD production, returning writer-director George Miller (“Babe”) deserves credit for getting across to children several morality-based life lessons.
This movie is available in standard 2D format, but the preferred way to view it is in either RealD 3D or IMAX 3D.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"