ALTHOUGH he began his career with violent carnage, George Miller, director of the Mad Max trilogy, has been concentrating on family fare for the past decade and a half.
He started with the Babe films, and his work earned an Oscar for Best Animated Film for Happy Feet five years ago.
The documentary March Of The Penguins was also a massive success around that time. But that was when penguins were all the rage. That has cooled a bit since then, although the timing of the BBC TV series Frozen Planet will certainly help with audiences looking for another Antarctic fix.
Miller's latest tale is back in penguin land. Among the millions of dancing Emperor Penguins at the South Pole is Mumble (voiced by Elijah Wood), who is all grown up from the first film and now has a son of his own, Erik.
Erik finds he is not able to dance as well as the other penguins, and so runs away in embarrassment, and Mumble sets out to find him.
But when they get back they discover a massive iceberg has trapped their colony, and if they do not free them somehow, everyone will starve.
That is not a lot to go on, story-wise, and really there is just not enough meat on the plot's bones to see this through, which is why there is a lot of set-up and several diversions before we get to the main thrust of the plot. By then the novelty has probably worn off, and it often seems to be trying to get by just on the sheer scale of the penguin masses and the fact that they are singing and dancing.
It also looks alarmingly like the eco-message is going to be hammered home, but actually beyond the set-up of the shifting ice, that s not the case. Thematically though, its messages rarely go beyond platitudes – it doesn't matter if you are small, you do not need to fly to be awesome – and the like.
Truth be told, it is the voices that sustain it much of the time. Robin Williams does double duty once again as Ramon, the penguin love god, as well as Lovelace.
You can always count on Hank Azaria for something silly and over-pronounced, and his Swedish puffin pretending to be a flying penguin, much to Ramon's irritation, is fun.
The most successful of the subplots involves a pair of krill called Will and Bill (Brad Pitt and Matt Damon), who escape from their swarm with a longing to get higher up the food chain, and these two are responsible for pretty much every laugh in the film. The fact we have to keep returning to them only demonstrates how average everything else is.
It looks for a while like they are just a sidebar, but by the time they tie in to the main story for a glorious rendition of Under Pressure, it is hard not to get swept up in it all.
The movie is accompanied by a Looney Tunes short, with Tweety Pie and Sylvester given a 3D, CGI makeover, and the great Mel Blanc providing voices from beyond the grave. It is nowhere near as heinous as it sounds.
Running Time: 103 mins
Director: George Miller
WE HAVE A POPE (PG) Religion and comedy mix as scared new Pontiff does a runner
THIS breezy Italian comedy begins just as the Pope has died and 108 cardinals gather in isolation inside the Vatican to pick the new Pontiff.
As the voting goes on, we hear the internal thoughts of some of the candidates, none of whom want it to be them.
Eventually, the white smoke goes up and the newly elected Holy Father (Michel Piccoli) can't face it. Instead of greeting the expectant public from the balcony, he does a runner, going on to the streets of Rome to try to find an answer.
Director Nanni Moretti brings a surprisingly light touch to what could have been a heavy-going drama, as the comical possibilities of an unprecedented situation that no one knows how to handle are explored.
But while it is often very funny, it also works as a poignant look at how a fearful old man reacts to having the responsibility for a billion souls placed on his shoulders.
Moretti turns up as a psychologist drafted in to try to help, but he is largely a diversion providing humorous asides while the search for the Pope goes on.
The psychologist becomes irrelevant to the plot as the last third begins increasingly to meander.
Running Time: 105 mins
Director: Nanni Moretti
LAS ACACIAS (12A) Road trip tale has too much scenery and not enough dialogue
RUBEN is a long-distance lorry driver taking timber from Paraguay to Argentina. He seems quite content in his life of lonely routine on the open road and in truck stops until he agrees to give a woman and her baby a lift to Buenos Aires.
We know nothing about either of them, and it pretty much remains that way for the entire film; indeed, half the film is gone before he even asks her name, so thin is this drama.
Teased out details of pasts hardly add much, and you have to wonder how so little can be stretched to feature length, with their slow bonding process taking place largely without dialogue, mainly because nothing happens.
Anything up to half the movie consists simply of shots of Ruben driving or scenery going past, and although the running time is short it often feels a bit like actually being on a long journey.
Running Time: 86 mins
Director: Pablo Giorgelli