Happy Feet

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Rating: PG

Starring:
Robin Williams as Ramón/Lovelace/Cletus (voice)
Hugh Jackman as Memphis (voice)
Elijah Wood as Mumble (voice)
Nicole Kidman as Norma Jean (voice)
Brittany Murphy as Gloria (voice)
Hugo Weaving as Noah (voice)
Johnny A. Sanchez as Lombardo (voice)
Carlos Alazraqui as Nestor (voice)
Lombardo Boyar as Raul (voice)
Jeff Garcia as Rinaldo (voice)
Steve Irwin as Kev (voice)
Anthony LaPaglia as Boss Skua (voice)
Miriam Margolyes as Mrs. Astrakhan (voice)
Magda Szubanski as Miss Viola (voice)
Elizabeth Daily as Young Mumble (voice)
Alyssa Shafer as Young Gloria (voice)
Michael Cornacchia as Skua Bird (voice)
David Michie as Salesman Penguin (voice)

Special Features:
Two new fully animated sequences: Mumble Meets a Blue Whale, A Happy Feet Moment
Private dance lesson with Savion Glover
Two music videos: Gia’s Hit Me Up, Prince’s The Song of the Heart
Classic cartoon: I Love to Singa

Other Info:
Widescreen
English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX Surround Sound
French and Spanish Languages
French and Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 108 Minutes

Synopsis:
Ever since Mumble was born, he was a little different from other penguins. While they sing unique personal songs to find mates, Mumble couldn’t sing at all. He was, however, a great dancer. Unfortunately the other penguins don’t appreciate his personal form of expression and he finds himself an outcast in his community.

One day Mumble stumbles across a completely different type of penguin group and they appreciate, and even emulate, his dancing moves. His newfound friends, in awe of his coolness, become determined to help him win the heart of his true love, Gloria. But Mumble’s plight is overshadowed by the mysterious lack of fish in the ocean. Determined to solve the mystery and win the heart of Gloria, Mumble goes on a quest to find what’s causing the fish shortage.

“Happy Feet” is rated PG for some mild peril and rude humor.

The Movie:
One of the most entertaining things about “Happy Feet” is the music. They take a page from the “Moulin Rouge!” playbook and rework established rock and pop songs into musical numbers for their story. The result is a fun game of ‘name that tune’ and a lot of samplings of great music.

The animation of “Happy Feet” is also top notch. The penguins and environments all look very realistic. They also managed to add fun touches to make the characters look unique. Mumble has a little bowtie in his feathers. His mother, Norma Jean, has a Marilyn Monroe-like black dot among her white feathers. A lot of the environments also look very realistic. It’s to the point that when real world, live action humans appear in the film, it takes a while to figure out if they’re CGI or real.

The performances are first rate. Hugh Jackman does a great Elvis impression as Mumble’s father Memphis. The same goes for Nicole Kidman and her Marilyn Monroe impression as Norma Jean. At first glance it looks like overkill to have Robin Williams voicing three characters in the film, but in the end it works. He brings something unique and funny to each character’s performance. Meanwhile, Elijah Wood acts as a great straight man for them. Brittany Murphy also delivers a fantastic vocal performance as Gloria. She can certainly sing as she demonstrates with her version of Queen’s “Somebody to Love” and several other songs.

Finally, “Happy Feet” has a pretty good message for kids. It encourages them to express themselves and it encourages them to respect their environment and help keep the ecosystem in balance. Both things are worthwhile messages for a kid’s film.

“Happy Feet” does have a few pitfalls. First of all, it may scare the pants off of smaller children. There’s a scene where a leopard seal pursues Mumble through the water and his sharp jaws repeatedly chomp at Mumble. I thought it was pretty cool, but it sent more than a few kids into their parent’s laps as it played out in theaters. The same goes for a scene later in the film where two killer whales attack our heroes. Your toddlers may never look at Shamu the same again. It’s nothing years of therapy won’t fix.

I also had to question one of the song choices – Tom Jones’s “Kiss” (or Prince’s, depending on your point of view). Do you really need the lyric “I just want your body, baby, from dusk till dawn” in a children’s film? I would have advised against it.

Finally, “Happy Feet” does go into somewhat of an anti-religion rant. The elder penguins warn against Mumble’s “pagan ways” and his angering their penguin god. It was like watching “Footloose.” While I’m all for encouraging kids to express themselves freely, doing it along with a thinly veiled religious attack seemed inappropriate in a kiddie movie.

The Extras:
The bonus features on this DVD are rather minimal. There aren’t even any interviews with the actors. I’d expect some sort of special edition to come some time in the future. Here’s what you’ll find for now:

Mumble Meets a Blue Whale – In this deleted scene, Mumble encounters a blue whale in the open ocean. A seagull, voiced by the late Steve Irwin, then has a conversation with our hero. It’s brief, but a nice tribute to the Crocodile Hunter.

A Happy Feet Moment – In this very brief scene, Mumble’s father kicks him around like a soccer ball, then boots him into the ocean. That’s about it.

Private dance lesson with Savion Glover – This is a 5 minute video featuring the famous tap dancer and choreographer for “Happy Feet.” You won’t be a better dancer after viewing this, but it is entertaining.

Music Video: Gia’s Hit Me Up – The song’s good, but the video has your standard movie clips intercut with footage of the singer.

Music Video: Prince’s The Song of the Heart – This is simply Prince’s song playing over the clips from the movie. Prince doesn’t appear in the video.

Classic cartoon: I Love to Singa – This is a classic Merrie Melodies cartoon from WB. No, there aren’t any penguins in this one. Just an owl. But it does follow the theme of “Happy Feet” where a bird prefers to do something different from his parents.

The Bottom Line:
“Happy Feet” succeeds in many ways that recent CGI films frequently fail. It features great music, amazing animation, intriguing characters, and an engaging story. The end result is a film that parents and kids can both enjoy.

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