movie review >> clayton smales
NOTHING is going to stop the Happy Feet juggernaut, and given it’s been a smash in the States and is set to do gangbusters in Australia, it would be kind of pointless to pick holes in it.
It is, after all, squarely aimed at kids, and on that front, I’d be hard pressed to recommended a more delightful, joyous 108 minutes of family entertainment.
I read that it took two years just to set up the computer power needed to create this magical Antarctic setting, never mind the meticulous CGI work done afterwards to bring an all-dancing, all-singing penguin tale to life.
But, just when you thought this type of flick couldn’t get any more detailed, any more visually stunning, the various whizzes that make their livings from this caper raise the bar to another level so much so that films like Toy Story and Monsters Inc. now look something any half decent graphic artist could slap up on their own PC. They probably couldn’t of course, but Happy Feet is an impressive reminder that the march of this type of technology, like the march of the penguins so lovingly portrayed, will not be halted.
Giving a nod to the likes of Moulin Rouge and My Best Friend’s Wedding, Happy Feet opens in a wondrous singalong as a vast herd of emperor penguins go about choosing mates, incubating eggs and preparing for the long winter.
They do this via a ‘heartsong’, with the film zooming in on Norma Jean and Memphis, penguins in love and awaiting the hatching of their precious egg.
But Memphis drops his precious cargo while acting out and the resultant offspring, Mumble, is slightly damaged, in that he can’t sing, but insists on tap dancing his way through life.
This makes him an outcast of sorts, and he struggles valiantly to stay true to himself while being accepted by his peers.
So begins a Lion King- style journey of discovery where Mumble befriends a troupe of wise-cracking penguins from another colony, battles vicious leopard seals, sea birds and killer whales and gets up all of sorts of happy mayhem en route to discovering why the penguins’ fish stocks are dwindling.
The moral lessons of acceptance and environmental responsibility aren’t shoved down our throats, making room for plenty of dazzling set pieces where Mumble and friends slide, swim and sashay through the storyline. Comic relief is provided by the Robin Williams-voiced pair of Ramo´n and Lovelace, the latter a charlatan penguin mystic who mistakenly thinks that a plastic ring-top from a six-pack is some sort of totem of authority.
There were times where I had to remind myself this icy world was purely a man-made creation, so real did the avalanches, etc look, and you might ask what’s the point of creating this virtual environment when generations of children have embraced much simpler forms of animated entertainment.
But there’s no denying Happy Feet’s snowshuffling appeal from the first cracking of Mumble’s egg to the predictably over-thetop final sequence. Take the kids, or just yourself, and enjoy. >> Happy Feet, rated G, and is is showing at all cinemas.