For emperor penguins, the heart song is the thing that makes the difference between happiness and life of loneliness. But, for one little chick named Mumble (voice of Elijah Wood) that song is missing because the lad, unfortunately, couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. His feet, though, can tap out their own song and he uses his unique gift to save the flock and find true love in “Happy Feet.”
March of the Penguins: The Musical” or “Dances with Penguins” are better descriptive names for this technically astounding animation that surrounds a story about intolerance to those different from us and, in the end, toleration through understanding of those differences. As such, the story of one little penguin trying to fit in with his peers is a simple one.
Mumble hatches from his egg later than the other newborns following an incident where his father’s momentary inattention causes his unborn chick egg to role free during the frigid Antarctic winter. But, the baby is born, seemingly healthy except for on thing: the tumble caused baby Mumble to emerge with the titular exultant peds. The only problem is, the chick can’t sing, an affliction that is considered a scandal. His nervous lower appendages draw concern from the Emperor penguin elders even though his mother thinks it “cute.”
This begins Mumble’s road to finding his true self as his “affliction” creates increasing disdain from the rest of the flock. His dance fever is seen as an aberration that is causing the fish they all depend upon for sustenance to disappear. He is banished from his clan but not before Mumbles declares that he will find out where the fish have gone and bring his discovery back to the flock. This is the second leg of the film (and the most exciting) as Mumble treks across the frozen wasteland and encounters such dangers as the penguin-dreaded leopard seal and a pair of hungry killer whales. He also comes upon another band of much smaller penguins that see nothing wrong with his passion for dance. This sympathetic flock is personified by the five hip little guys, the Amigos, who join Mumble in his quest (and provide the film’s best comic relief).
The cast that gives voice to our flightless flock is an extended one with many name stars. Elijah Wood, Robin Williams, Brittany Murphy, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Hugo Weaving and Anthony LaPaglia are featured as the voices of the penguins but their star power is suppressed in favor of characterization (except for Williams who is readily identifiable, as usual). But, Mumble’s adventures overshadow the characters with amazing computer animation that is truly state of the art. Set CG pieces, like the leopard seal and Orca chases and Mumble’s meeting with a herd of elephant seals the best things in “Happy Feet.” (Parents, beware. The chases scenes may be harrowing for smaller kids, making this a film for kids age seven or eight on up.)
There is a reliance on large-scale song and dance numbers that are reminiscent of classic Disney animes but get in the way of the Mumble’s exciting adventures and the comedy offered by the hilarious Amigos. The tunes used range from Stevie Wonder, The Beach Boys and Queen and provide a familiar set of songs that the parents will enjoy while the kids dig the action.
The reason to fork out your dough to see this at the theater is the incredibly detailed and realistic looking CGI. (It is also being released at IMAX theaters.) Director George Miller, of “Babe” fame, does a solid job with his story (developed with John Collee, Judy Morris and Warren Coleman) and shows his action mettle with Mumble’s scary adventures. “Happy Feet” does the meaningful message thing – be tolerant of others - in a pat manner but the computer animation is outstanding. I give it a B.Laura:
Laura did not see this film.
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