The International Writers Magazine: Film Review

Happy Feet
Directed by George Miller
With the voices of Robin Williams, Brittany Murphy, Elijah Wood, Nicole Kidman, Hugo Weaving, Anthony LaPaglia and many more in a cast of thousands

Sam North review

Last year we all trooped into the multiplexes to see ‘March of the Penguins’ and came out amazed at their indomitable will to live and survive the harsh elements of Antarctica. Now we have sing and dancing Penguins and if this doesn’t fill the multiplexes’ all over again there is no justice in this world at all.

One look at the credits at the end of this American-Australian production and you’ll realise that almost half of Sydney must have worked on this animation production. The attention to detail is astonishing and as much thought has gone into the songs as the storyline and the whole thing packs a big punch.
Memphis (An Elvis impersonating penguin) woos J with his heartsong in the mating season. If there is one thing that’s important in the Emperor penguin world is finding your heartsong, the one special song that will lure that one special female into your orbit.

In penguin world once the bride has produced the egg, she quickly hands it over to the guy and heads on out to party. The guy has to stand with the egg between his legs for months in the freezing snow and wait for it to hatch. Memphis in a distracted moment lets the egg roll away and although he gets it back, has he damaged the chick inside forever? Will it even hatch?

Mumble eventually arrives a tad late and he is a bit different. He can’t sing. He can tap dance however and Memphis isn’t a happy penguin about this. Not at all.

Mumble is doomed to loneliness. He doesn’t fit in and he is shunned. His one talent, tap, isn’t appreciated at all, especially by his Dad Memphis.

Separated from his own breed he encounters the X group of penguins and his life begins to change. Of course it helps that Robin Williams is masquerading as a penguin here and once he gets going singing My Way in Spanish you just know that one day soon Mumble will get back home and win the girl of his dreams.
Only it isn’t quite that simple. Mumble is also blessed with a brain and questions. When he sees a huge lifting crane sink to the bottom of the ocean he wants to know where it has come from and then there is the question of ‘aliens’ are they eating all the fish? Are they invading Penguin world? He is like any child who just asks why until he gets answers.

Happy Feet is not just a cartoon. It has a serious message. The Antarctic is the last pristine place left on earth and with the pressures on humans, some 6.5 billion of us now, we are just gobbling up all the resources that will leave Penguins and Seal Elephants and other creatures with nothing to eat. We have all but wiped out Tigers and big game throughout Africa with our greed, the penguin, with their thousands of years of traditions is under threat too. Not just from a diminishing food chain but pollution too and this is graphically brought home. The scenes when the Penguins discover the human settlement are truly awesome and scary too.

The animation is truly astonishing, the beat relentless and there are some good laughs along the way as Mumble finds er his feet. The music ranges from Boogie Wonderland to Hip-Hop and you never saw a group if hipper penguins. The tragedy, when Mumble finds himself in an Aquarium, is all too real. (As one, who grew as depressed as the penguins themselves watching them in the Valencia Aquarium in Spain, no Penguin should be held in captivity for our stupid gaze.).

Adults and kids will be amazed by Happy Feet and the message is a serious one. Robin Williams gets to play two roles and this film really comes alive around his characters. His Lovelace, the penguin love machine is a hoot. But Brittany, Elijah and Nicole and the rest give as good and although long for an animated feature, you will be uplifted by the sheer dynamics of this wonderful movie.

© Sam North December 2006-12-03
Sam’s new book on the coming flu pandemic ‘Another Place to Die’ is out now
and available from all good on-line bookstores.

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