Happy Feet

2007-03-19 16:02

Mumble (Elijah Wood) is a natural-born hoofer – a tap dancer of tremendous talent. The only problem is that he’s an emperor penguin, and they don’t dance, they sing. Every emperor, from his mom Norma Jean (Nicole Kidman) to his dad Memphis (Hugh Jackman) to his best friend Gloria (Brittany Murphy) has their own unique “heart song”. This song is used during mating season, and it’s the only route to true love. With a voice so awful that it causes avalanches, Mumble attracts the disapproval of Noah the Elder (Hugo Weaving), who eventually finds an excuse to banish this freak with the “happy feet”, blaming the shortage of fish on his “unnatural ways”. But Mumble is convinced that it is the mysterious “aliens” he keeps hearing about that are stealing all the fish. With the help of his new friends, a gaggle of smooth talking adelie penguins lead by the irrepressible Ramon (Robin Williams), Mumble sets out to find these creatures and save the emperors from starvation.


With so many new animation studios jumping on the bandwagon lately, you have to wonder if we need yet another set of pixel jockeys cranking out irritable iguanas and gregarious giraffes. But, though the team behind Happy Feet may be the new kids on the animation block, they are already showing stalwarts like Pixar and Dreamworks how it should be done.

Firstly, the filmmakers haven’t “cranked” out anything. The film’s combination of animation, motion capture and matte painting took a huge team four years to perfect, and the results of their labour are all up there on the screen. This is breathtakingly beautiful stuff, not just by the standards of animation, but the whole film world. Every aspect - from the tiniest fluffy feathers on the baby penguin’s bellies, to the majestic arctic ice plateau – is rendered to crisp perfection.

But this isn’t just another chocolate-boxy exercise in animation geekery, these guys have realised just how important a good story is to the movie’s ultimate success. Aside from its fun but rather gimmicky premise, the film has solid dramatic bones. For one thing it has the kind of epic scope that few animated films would dare to take on. Sure, we’ve seen a lot of the component parts of the tale before – the lone outcast on a quest to save an ungrateful people, a son in search of his father’s approval – but they’ve managed to make them seem fresh again.

As pretty and interesting as it may be, the film’s most memorable aspect is the fabulous soundtrack. An eclectic mix of old and new, it includes everything from The Beach Boys to Prince to Queen, not to mention an unforgettable rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” sung by Robin Williams. And the filmmakers haven’t simply bunged the tunes on top of the finished film – they have integrated them into the action and added all kinds of special touches to these much-loved songs. Animated or not, Happy Feet is a musical in the true sense of the word.

Even with all this action going on, the filmmakers have still managed to squeeze in the crowd-pleasing staples that have made animated films into a multi-billion dollar business. There’s plenty of cheeky humour, with Robin Williams leading the charge as the hilarious Ramon, not to mention enough cute ‘n cuddly critters to sink a battleship. The film’s trailers have concentrated largely on the baby penguins, and they are every bit as adorable as they look.

Not that the film is without flaws. The filmmakers have simply tried to cram too much into too little time. There are simply too many songs, too many subplots, too many characters and far too much complexity for such a young audience. The environmentalist message is laudable, but they have taken it too far, overstretching the boundaries of both interest and credibility. The film’s rushed, oversimplified conclusion is totally at odds with the brilliance of the rest of the film.

Though it ends on a somewhat sour note, Happy Feet is still one of the best animated films since Finding Nemo, the gold standard of kiddie movies. At the very least it will give kids (and adults) a remarkably true-to-life glimpse of the fascinating world of the Antarctic, with all its unique creatures and breathtaking beauty. And anyway, who could resist a dancing baby penguin?

- Alistair Fairweather
The kind of all-singing, all-dancing extravaganza that shows us just what animated films have been missing for the last few years. Now if only it didn’t try to ram its message quite so far down our throats.

Sandi 2006/11/30 8:27 AM
Happy Feet I absolutely loved the movie! I think so many people can relate to Mumble in that because we are different doesn't mean we have to give up on being proud of who we are and fighting for that right. I was tap-tap-tapping away long after the movie and felt so good as it is great for young and old - my son in young (9), my friend is older (29) and I am (well just let's say past the 40's) and we all enjoyed it. Great movie for everyone - go see it!
sb 2006/11/30 11:44 AM
Happy Feet Woww, we need more Movies like this in our missarable world ... Peopel should learn to accept one onther for who they are and not for what they can be ... and if they dont know how then go and see "Happy Feet" !! How wonderful the World would have been if we were All Penquins !!
lilly 2006/12/06 11:15 AM
dancing happy feet The movie is a combination of a classic musical, animation film. It has a lot of ideology beneth it - the so called between the line messages with the story line. it is almost upsurd to think that one little penquin can make such a difference in the perception of the world. The movie also suggest that dancing.. the rithim of music is a universal language between all the creatures of the earth. I don't think that this movie is soully for children. They would not understand the hint of global warming and pollution of our time and so forth... It a movie for all ages. The animated scences of the archtic creatures like the tiger seals and so forth is done brillantly as well as the deepness of the sea and ice world. I could almost feel the cold from where i was sitting and was overtaken by the deep, overpowering sea. Over all a good movie. The loose ends were not tied up very well but the movie is definilty a must see...
Lizel 2006/12/13 11:51 AM
Don't think so Not for kiddies who first went to see Open Season. This will be a dissappointment for them. Sound track indeed very good, as a few old good songs revamped.
Taryn 2006/12/21 5:09 PM
Bored to tears Yes, the animation was really good but it hardly makes up for the fact that this was a silly movie with a silly story that moved slowly along to its inevitable, yet hardly believable, conclusion. Far too much of a musical!
Paul 2007/01/04 12:42 PM
good I thought that the animation was excellent, but it did seem to drag on a bit and a little too many songs. Penguins are cute and I think should appeal to little ones, adults may feel it is all a bit over the top.
Juanita 2007/02/26 2:41 PM
Fun tastic My husband and I went to see this movie in a driving, I am quite sure the people around us thought we were young lovers, because our car was bopping and hopping. The soundtrack was absolutly fantastic and I will definatly buy a copy for home when it comes out.
joey 2007/06/20 3:37 AM
not really the mexican fellows were funny. tap-dancing was good. nice music too. story a bit too multi-layered, intricate and far-fetched.
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