I took my 3 year old daughter to see her first movie today. There's really nothing else in the theatre besides Happy Feet Two so that's what we chose. I really wanted to bring her to a movie rather than watching a DVD at home so she could have the overall experience of going to the movies. Having worked in the film business and being a great lover of movies, it really warmed my heart to share one of my very favorite pastimes with her. That said, I felt the quality of the film was lacking. She did not find it scary - thank goodness. I distracted her a bit during the scene with the predatory skua birds, though that may not have been necessary. She enjoyed the music, the dancing penguins and the brightness of the characters. However sweet the film was, I was disappointed by the dumbed-down dialoge and character development. This movie just doesn't value the intelligence of children. While I understand that a movie might not play to adults, this film felt stripped of narrative and character even for little ones. All children are astute and perceptive. They are sensitive and don't need emotions whittled down to nothing. The characters in this film barely emote. This is particularly a problem for the main character of Erik, a baby penguin who little ones would identify with the most. All of his emotional responses to what is going on around him feel watered down. The animation doesn't register the fear, disappointment, courage, and love this little fuzzy penguin is feeling. I only know he felt those emotions because the (badly written) dialogue told me so. Children are so sensitive and aware of the emotions around them, even if they don't understand them all. If the characters were more expressive, we would have had more to talk about after the film. But on another note, and to be fair, I thought the Bill and Will storyline was thoughtful for older children.
Now for my biggest concern - PARENTS BE FOREWARNED - the antiquated violence of the Looney Tunes short that proceeds Happy Feet Two. It's a Sylvester/Tweety Bird cartoon in the classic style where Sylvester tries to capture and kill Tweety at all cost. And by "classic style" I mean there are lots of antics like slamming windows on fingers, chasing with a baseball bat, being thrown out a window, etc. I was surprised and dumbfounded with how to explain this to my daughter. Perhaps if I had done more research I would have known this short film was playing before the feature film and could have arrived later. Even though I grew up on Tom and Jerry and turned out fine, I would never want my daughter watching it and certainly not at this age.
But back to Happy Feet Two. I thought it was a sweet film, just not the smartest, most elevated version of children's fare. My daughter said she liked every part of the movie, that none of it scared her and that she wanted to go to the movies again tomorrow.