As I get older, I’m starting to grow more hair around the nipple region and my eyesight is degrading to the point where 10:15 looks an awful lot like 8:30. In other words, I missed my showing of Happy Feet on Sunday so this review comes a little later than it should’ve. Now that I have your sympathy and successfully directed your thoughts towards my nipple area (or nipular fun zone as I like to call it), let the Happy Feet review begin.
You probably think I’m a little kooky for wanting to see Happy Feet (not to mention the whole nipple stuff from the previous paragraph). Happy Feet is indeed aimed at a younger audience with its cookie cutter plot and child friendly show tunes, but its stunning visuals and musical performances make it more than your average feel good cartoon. It also doesn’t hurt that Happy Feet boasts the incredible vocal talents of Robin Williams under its wing.
The story is nothing new; little Mumble, aka Happy Feet, grows up different from the other penguins because of his eccentric tap dancing and atrocious singing voice. In a penguin society where status, and most importantly, mating rights, are dependent on a beautiful voice, Mumble seems destined for crazed hermit-penguin status.
Eventually, Mumble is cast out from his penguin homeland for his strange ways and disturbing questions about the “aliens” who might be causing the fish scarcity (read: humans). Mumble then sets out to discovery the mystery behind the disappearing fish and in the process prove himself worthy to his family and friends. Occasional danger, hilarity, sadness, and triumph ensue.
Happy Feet is a movie that survives on its incredibly detailed animation and over the top musical performances. When Mumble struggles through a blizzard, you can see individual feathers rippling in the blustery, snow-laden wind. And when Mumble and his little Mexican penguin buddies (yes, you read that correctly) get chased by Killer Whales, each Orca tooth is large and threatening to the smallest detail. This is a beautiful movie. And it has a musical soundtrack to match it.
The musical talents of Nicole Kidman (good), Hugh Jackman (okay), Brittany Murphy (surprisingly good), and Robin Williams (crazy good) pack a powerful punch. Songs and dances are plentiful and well orchestrated and are sure to delight children and even adults. The infectious tunes of Stevie Wonder, Prince, and Earth, Wind, & Fire made even my tone-deaf body quiver with rhythm.
The voice acting is superb during the numerous musical performances and generally bland the rest of the time. Elijah Wood voices Mumble and while he’s appropriately eager, vulnerable, and determined, he’s also very vanilla. Except for Robin Williams' lines, most dialogue is eminently forgettable. Fortunately, Williams voices not one but two characters and manages to bring some spit and zing to otherwise blah-ridden conversations.
Besides the trite dialogue and storyline, I did have a major gripe with the 2nd half of the movie. The missing-fish plot felt tacked on and some of the later developments were nothing more than an ill-disguised deus ex machina. Children are likely to ignore these issues but they’re sure to trigger double takes from adults – “What the hell just happened?”