HAPPY FEET (movie) Edit


Director: George Miller
Writing credits: Warren Coleman, John Collee, George Miller, Judy Morris
Voices: Elijah Wood: Mumble (voice)
Brittany Murphy: Gloria (voice)
Hugh Jackman: Memphis (voice)
Nicole Kidman: Norma Jean (voice)
Hugo Weaving: Noah the Elder (voice)
Robin Williams: Ramón/Lovelace (voice)
Year Released: 2006

Reviewed by dafaceEdit

I Believe I Can Fly

Last year, the documentary film March of the Penguins, made waves both critically and at the box office. It was a celebration of nature, of life, danger, and death as seen through the eyes of Emperor Penguins in the Antarctica. If you had seen that documentary, then the first 10 minutes of Happy Feet will be familiar territory, as it probably summarized a whole lot of the mating game, into the introductory act.

Happy Feet tells the story of an offspring Emperor Penguin of Norma Jean (voiced by Nicole Kidman) and Memphis (Hugh Jackman). With that distinctive mole placement and swagger, it's actually Marilyn Monroe and Elvis done as animated feather friends, romanticizing each other and eventually have a son aptly named Mumble, born with a defect, save for those distinctively sky blue eyes of Elijah Wood. A heart song is what the Emperor Penguins use to attract their mates, but true to his namesake, Mumble can't sing for nuts and can only, surprise, tap dance, much to the chagrin of the conservative elders.

It's perhaps a given that those cute baby penguins which melted the hearts of many in March of the Penguins, get featured so prominently here in Happy Feet. Milking them for what they're worth, this movie pours in a lot more crowd favorites like dance. So you have yet another animated movie in this year's glut of offerings, in yet another movie about dance, a dash of comedy fused with familiar songs weaved together in a medley, and voila! Instant formula for success!

I must admit I was initially apprehensive that Happy Feet will be able to pull it off and had somewhat low expectations, given some mediocre Hollywood animated movies being produced. But true enough, I was sold after 10 minutes. The animation is photo-realistic, and probably is the next best thing of having being in the Antarctica, or watching the real one on screen. If the animals in the movie quit talking, you might just think that they're for real.

The characters too manage to endear themselves to you, with Robin Williams staging a coup with his voice performance of two penguin characters, one a smooth talking leader of a pack of Adelie penguins with Latino accents (their antics reminiscent of those in Madagascar, only a lot more laid back), and of a know-it-all Guru who answers any questions in exchange for pebbles. Brittany Murphy can sing too, as she lends her voice to Mumble's love interest, and THE babe of the colony, Gloria. Hugo Weaving too is in the movie, and so is the late Steve Irwin. It's no wonder that at the helm of this movie is director George Miller, also an Australian (say, there's quite a number of Australian's lending their voices here)

While it's generally a feel good movie, there's a good portion of the movie well hidden away from the trailers, in case you have the nagging misconception that there's nothing too interesting about watching a story of an underdog outcast working his way, cutting across discrimination to win the girl of his dreams. At one point, I thought the movie could have gone the way that Steven Spielberg's AI had gone, because it certainly felt that way. Also, there's a very rushed message on conservation, and in fact, the finale felt that it got truncated just to end the way it had.

Christmas season's coming, and a tale rooted in family ties, friendship, and the return of the prodigal son, makes it satisfyingly enjoyable. Parents would probably check out if the toy stores carry baby penguin plush toys. Should be a hit with the kids, after the movie.

(This review first appeared in A Nutshell Review and is reproduced here with permission.)

Reviewed by despairEdit

Happy Feet starts out promising but ends up being a bloated movie with a stinker of a denouement, This animated movie shows, once again, that a Hollywood star does not (necessarily) a good voice actor make.

Happy Feet's central characters are adorable penguins, there are a number of catchy tunes and dance routines, many audiences are still acquainted with March of the Penguins (an inexplicable box office success as well), and there is a strong feel-good vibe that permeates the production. And for the first 75 minutes of the film, Happy Feet seems to be almost on par with Pixar. Then it all goes south rapidly in the final thirty minutes, with an incredibly ill-conceived deus ex machina that completely saps any joy out of watching the movie.

The story revolves around the Emperor penguins that can be found in Antarctica, and their yearly ritual of female penguins leaving the roost to fish whilst the males stay back to incubate the egg. In one such year, Norma Jean (Nicole Kidman) returns to her mate Memphis (Hugh Jackman) and their newborn son Mumble (Elijah Wood), only to find that Mumble doesn't sing like the normal penguins – in fact, his voice is nothing short of terrible. Mumble is more inclined to dancing, which is frowned upon by the community. Convinced that his love for Gloria (Brittany Murphy), one of the most desirable females in the brood, will not be returned, Mumble decides to leave.

He chances upon and manages to make friends with Ramon (Robin Williams) and friends, who are a different species of penguins, and more accommodating to his feet-tapping ways. However, Mumble soon finds himself on a journey over many seas trying to uncover the reason behind the diminishing supply of fish in the Antarctic, which is causing the penguins to starve.

Happy Feet is a technically superior film as compared to other animated films of late. The penguins are near photorealistic, and the backgrounds are lush and detailed (even if much of it is ice and snow). Director George Miller also works in many high-speed, high-energy sequences, which makes the film seem fresh and exciting even if the storyline is pretty standard. The voice acting is above average, especially Robin Williams (who outdoes most celebrity voice actors by inhabiting two characters in the film), but Elijah Woods is the film's weak link – Mumble sounds flat and uninspired, and it's a thankful thing that most of his scenes are bolstered by better voices

It's not uncommon to see singing and dancing animals in animated films, but one would be right in saying that the song choices in Happy Feet is kind of quirky. Boogie Wonderland, Kiss, Heartbreak Hotel, My Way and a few other pop tunes make it into the soundtrack, which gives the movie an adult feel despite its kid-friendly looks. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but the familiarity of these songs hurt the suspension of disbelief.

If this is all Happy Feet offered, it would have been an excellent animated film, but the movie is ultimately let down by a seeming inability to end properly, with the writers taking the worst possible route by introducing a jarring deus ex machina. It may seem like nitpicking in a movie that features talking birds, but even for such a premise the denouement rings hollow. This is not helped by the sledgehammer introduction of environmental issues in the last reel, as though the filmmakers suddenly developed a larger-than-life concern for the environment. The sudden appearance of real life humans is also a puzzling move, and the reality check is unwelcome and takes audiences further out of the movie than necessary. In fact, the movie ends on such a wrong note that it virtually undoes everything that came before it, leaving a sour aftertaste to what would have at least been a decent film.

Rating: * * (out of four stars)

Final Word: Good till the last half hour.

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