Mad Max director George Miller struck gold in 2006 with Happy Feet, an animated tale of a penguin with a talent for tap dancing. The movie hoovered up more than $380 million (£242 million) in box office takings and had the temerity to swipe an Oscar away from Pixar, so a follow-up seemed almost inevitable.
In sequel Happy Feet Two, Elijah Wood is back voicing Mumble, who now has a son with Gloria (Pink replacing the late Brittany Murphy). However, offspring Erik (Ava Acres) has a fear of dance and, after an early embarrassment in the film, sets off on a journey of discovery across Antarctica with friends Boadica and Atticus.
Other stories are juggled; notably the hopeless romantic Ramon's (Robin Williams) search for a mate, the origins of miraculous flying penguin Sven (Hank Azaria) and an existential crisis for two krill, Will and Bill (voiced spiritedly by Brad Pitt and Matt Damon), who separate from their swarm. When a giant glacier breaks away and traps the penguins, the threads tie together as the characters work to find a way to freedom.
Much of the action is anchored in the same ice-covered locations, meaning that the film treads on similar visual ground as its predecessor. Fortunately, there's enough going on outside of the run-of-the-mill father-son storyline with Mumble and Erik to keep the movie from flagging. Miller cleverly blends live-action with animation to illustrate Sven and preacher penguin Lovelace's (Williams pulling double voice duties) captivity at the hands of humans.
The film's biggest strength, however, is separate from the main action as the two krill go on an epic exploration of the deep. Pitt's Will is the dominant personality, searching for meaning and to hoist himself off the bottom of the food chain, while Damon's Bill follows his every move in a show of puppy dog loyalty to his braggadocious friend. Their relationship is like that of an old married couple, and it's a shame there's not more screen time dedicated to it.
The musical stagings range from Jackson numbers 'Shake Your Body' and 'Rhythm Nation' to Queen's 'We Are the Champions' (sung comically by Pitt) and 'Under Pressure'. The latter takes centre stage for the film's flipper-stomping finale, and it proves to be the highlight of an enjoyable if lightweight animated romp. Ironically, the track played out at a crucial juncture in recent Robin Williams offering World's Greatest Dad, although the scenarios could not be more different.
Happy Feet Two almost certainly won't replicate the Oscar-scooping success of the first movie, but with its good vibes and toe-tapping soundtrack, it'll keep its target audience satisfied.