Happy Feet

Cast:
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)

Summary:
“Happy Feet” features great music, amazing animation, and fantastic character performances. It is hampered by some scary moments for young kids and some mature themes, but it’s otherwise enjoyable.

Story:
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.

What Worked:
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.

What Didn’t Work:
“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. 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 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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