Happy Feet

2006, Movie, PG, 98 mins


The perfect film for audiences who found fault with MARCH OF THE PENGUINS because it was too emotionally taxing and you couldn't dance to it. George Miller (in BABE mode, rather than MAD MAX) and Warren Coleman's animated cartoon begins in outer space, accompanied by snippets of sing-a-long tunes, then slowly closes in on Planet Earth and Antarctica's frozen tundra, where the Emperor penguins are conducting their elaborate mating ritual. This involves finding a soul mate by trilling your heart song — the one you hear deep inside your heart. Norma Jean (Nicole Kidman) belts out Prince's "Kiss" and Memphis (Hugh Jackman) croons Elvis' "Heartbreak Hotel": Could there be any doubt that they're destined to make beautiful music together? Soon Norma is heading off to feed, leaving Memphis to huddle with the mass of other penguin house-husbands charged with keeping their soon-to-be hatched offspring safe and warm — but, horror of horrors, Memphis accidentally drops theirs on the egg equivalent of its head. Come spring, their fluffy chick emerges, late but cute as a button... except that something's a little off. He's got twitchy feet and a singing voice that sounds like a dying animal. Another new arrival, Gloria (Brittany Murphy) — who has the voice of a songbird — dubs the odd bird Mumble (Elijah Wood), and his folks worry that with a grating honk like that, he'll never meet his mate. Unconventional Mumble is snubbed by his peers and, after being teased at penguin graduation, he goes out on his own and finds a colony of Adelie penguins. They love his "happy feet" so much that they steal his dance moves. They also introduce him to Lovelace (Robin Williams), who's seen the mythic "aliens" — human beings — and has the plastic soda-can wrapper around his neck to prove it. Mumble returns home to warn his fellow Emperor penguins of the dangers of the "aliens" and to reconnect with Gloria, but he gets the cold shoulder from the elders, led by the stern Noah (Hugo Weaving,) who blames the sudden lack of fish on Mumble's unnatural dancing feet. If ever there was a film that didn't know what it wants to be, it's this one: Sometimes its making significant points about the importance of conservation, even incorporating live-action images of people debating the issue. At other times it has the air of a Discovery Channel special that took a very wrong detour into the plot of FOOTLOOSE, where dancing is different and bad. Funny moments can be found throughout, but it's mostly silly and scattered. leave a comment --Angel Cohn

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