movie film review | chris tookey

Happy Feet

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  Happy Feet Review
Tookey's Rating
5 /10
Average Rating
6.32 /10
Voices: Robin Williams, Hugh Jackman, Elijah Wood
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Directed by: George Miller
Written by: Warren Coleman, John Collee, George Miller, Judy Morris

Released: 2006
Origin: US
Length: 109

Happy Feet is last year’s surprise documentary hit, March of the Penguins, re-imagined as an animated rock musical for children.

Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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It starts off as a cute comedy about Mumble (voiced by Elijah Wood), a tap-dancing Emperor penguin with a terrible singing voice. The fact that he sounds as if he’s being strangled with barbed wire, or the missing third member of the X-Files’ MacDonald Brothers, means that he’s unlikely ever to pick up a penguin of the opposite sex.

This makes him an embarrassment to dad Memphis (Hugh Jackman, offering his Elvis impersonation) and mum Norma Jean (Nicole Kidman, giving us her Marilyn Monroe).

Mumble is treated as an outcast by his fellow Emperor penguins, Ugly Duckling-style, until he meets up with a posse of Hispanic Adelie penguins, led by Ramon (voiced, not always comprehensibly, by Robin Williams). They teach him to party, go with the floe, accept his disability and tap his troubles away.

Eventually, Mumble wins over his own tribe by – and here you may need to suspend your disbelief – intimating to the United Nations by his tap-dancing alone that the waters of Antarctica are becoming over-fished.

If you think that lurch from kiddie comedy to hectoring environmental tract sounds weird, just wait until you see the movie: it’s as though Al Gore suddenly took over the production at gunpoint and ordered them to ditch the child-friendly stuff and save the planet.

The movie’s environmental concerns seem unduly selective: penguins are cuddly and almost human, and therefore worth saving. Fish aren’t cute, so they are regarded purely as penguin fodder.

Director George Miller produced Babe, but this has nowhere near as much class. Though the scenery is a treat for the eyes, the soundtrack is often cluttered and inaudible, and the eclectic choice of songs seems more calculated to sell soundtrack CDs than to make any sense, in terms of penguin culture. Robin Williams struck me as a pain in the tail-feathers (and he has two parts, which makes him doubly annoying).

However, I saw this with a big audience of young children, and for them it delivers. There are two sequences which may be too frightening for children below the age of five, but for those between five and eight (perhaps even for unsophisticated ten year-olds) it’s bright, noisy and fun, and more charming than last week’s Flushed Away.

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