Newest Review: ... Norma goes off to find fish with the other lady penguins. When Norma returns she is greeted by Memphis and the new baby penguin Mumble. ... more
"Gloria, you're so fish."
Happy Feet (DVD)
Member Name: sy2kgbr
Happy Feet (DVD)
Advantages: Penguins dance lots!
Disadvantages: Penguins dance lots.
Following 3D animated insights into the lives of fish, ants and chickens, you might think that Happy Feet was a Pixar production, but it's actually from the studio of Animal Logic, the people who did the amazing effects in the first Lord of the Rings movie, the Matrix, and in Babe: Pig in the City. Happy Feet is their first computer animated production, and fortunately for them, they've really pulled it off. Before Christmas Day, Happy Feet had already made over 60 million USD worldwide. Not a bad project to get involved with.
I saw the trailer for this film a very long time ago, but I suppose that's not unusual, as films like this take a very long time to make. Recently, all of the Persil adverts for the free little Mumble penguin have been reminding me to go see the movie, and here's my take on it.
When I first saw the trailer for Happy Feet, I immediately thought, "I want to see that!" But even at that stage, I couldn't really figure out what the story was. The trailer consisted of penguins dancing. That was it. Pretty cool to look at, but how do you get 109 minutes out of that?
Well, the film is set in the Antarctic, and focuses on everyday life in a colony of Emperor penguins. Apparently, and I didn't learn this in biology, Emperor penguins all have their own special song and they sing to attract their mates. The more successful know numbers such as "Kiss" or "Heartbreak Hotel", but the less fortunate try songs like Ricky Martin's deep and meaningful "Shake Your Bon Bon".
At the beginning of the film, we see the courtship between vocally gifted Emperor penguins Memphis and Norma Jean, followed by their subsequent egg, who hatches into Mumble, an adorable little penguin. Although his parents are famous for their singing abilities, poor Mumble can't manage to hold a single note. To make matters worse, he loves tap-dancing, an unheard of activity for a respectable penguin. Whilst his mum Norma Jean thinks this is cute, Mumble's differences from the tribe rapidly make him an outcast. Following some particularly harsh winters, Mumble gets made a scapegoat for the dwindling fish presence nearby.
To prove that being different doesn't mean bringing misfortunate for the tribe, Mumble sets off on a mission to find out where the fish have gone.
For the story to flow smoothly, you could actually cut out the majority of this film. The plot is very slow to kick off, and the ending, although clearly thought out, does seem to be rushed. If you're after a film with a well constructed story, you might be disappointed. However, the film does have its redeeming points.
The animation of an entire colony of penguins singing and dancing is pretty amazing, and effects such as aurora australis are done well. The arrangement of music throughout the film is very enjoyable, weaving together lots of modern and well known songs together in a rich pop tapestry. If you like movies with music in them, this film is for you.
There's a clear moral to the film, but I wasn't decided as to whether this was pulled off effectively or not. At moments, I thought it was a good moral and put across effectively, but at others, I worried it was too contrived.
In my opinion, Robin Williams really shone here, voicing the character of Lovelace, the fat guru penguin with a mystical necklace, and also Ramón, one of "the amigos" from the Adélie penguin tribe. I thought he was excellent.
Some other big names are behind this movie, with Elijah Wood cast as Mumble, Brittany Murphy as love interest Gloria, and Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman voicing his parents Memphis and Norma Jean. Hugh Weaving from the hugely successful Matrix trilogy voices Noah, one of the leaders of Mumble's tribe, and Miriam Margolyes, who has done some excellent stuff I'm sure, but who I remember as Professor Sprout from Harry Potter, voices Mrs Astrakhan, a penguin singing coach. Anthony LaPaglia from Without a Trace has a small role as Boss Skua, one of the nasty birds who wants to eat baby Mumble.
Steve Irwin has a cameo as an Elephant Seal called Trev, and it felt natural that one of his last camera roles had involved playing a big ugly animal that only he could love! The film was in post-production when he died, and has been dedicated to his memory. A fitting tribute.
Happy Feet is rated U, and therefore suitable for most people, including young children. Adults won't find it in the least bit scary, but there were a few moments which upset some younger viewers when I saw this film. A bit of caution therefore should be exercises with any extra sensitive wee mites!
I enjoyed this film, and despite the slow start, I would recommend it. You can forgive the scriptwriters for taking so long to get to the action, as this has allowed plenty of opportunity for some very enjoyable music scores. There are some heavy environmental themes brought in towards the end, but no real politics, so don't worry about the film brainwashing little minds! Definitely a great family film. In my review about Flushed Away, another recent animated film release, I warned it was probably more for the adults than the kids, but Happy Feet strikes a better balance.
Summary: Great family film that's still showing at a cinema near you.