November 2006


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Review: Happy Feet

Tolerant, in her infinite sweetness,took me, The Pookster and her niece out to see Happy Feet, the animated adventure of a dancing Emperor penguin.

This is a good movie, and those of you with kids should take them to see it. The family will have a good time, and it is worth the money to see it on a big screen with good sound, as there is copious singing.

There is also a thick handful of social commentary, as any good fable should have. The worst part, however, has to be Nicole Kidman’s voice. A sad case of casting there.

Spoilers follow.

Those of you able to unable to block the memory will recall that Robin Williams (who voices two roles in this film) also voiced a certain mostly-psychotic fruitbat in a film called Fern Gully: The Last Rainforest. While this one is much better written, animated, and generally thought-out than the former, it is still very much a pointed reminder that humanity is taking a toll on the world’s animal populations.

Okay, it is more than that – it is also a societal reminder that different isn’t allways hand-in-hand with bad.

Our hero is named Mumble Happy Feet, and he is unable to sing. In his home flock, singing is the only way to attract a mate, so being unable to sing is a pretty bad thing. He can, however, dance. Gregory Hines could take lessons from this guy, he is that good. The elders of the flock, however, don’t see this as a good thing and ostracize him from the clan, despite Mumble’s ability to attract the eye of the lovely Gloria.

Part of the backstory here is that there is a famine going on – there simply aren’t enough fish to go around. The flock elders think that their god has forsaken them due to a lack of vigilance, and anything out of the ordinary is seen as a possible cause. So, out Mumble goes.

He meets up with a flock of another sort of penguin, and learns that singing isn’t the only way to get a girl. He also meets Lovelace, the guru of this other penguin tribe, who sports one of those plastic six-pack rings around his neck as a trophy from the “Mystical Ones” and sign of his divinity. A little later in the movie, Lovelace is being slowly strangled by the thing as he fattens up with age, so Mumble vows to take him to the Mystic Beings to get it removed.

The adventuring party (including both of Williams’ characters) goes over iceberg and snowfield to eventually find a mostly-abandoned human outpost with a bunch of trash floating in the bay. A pair of Orca attack the band, and accidentally rip the thing off of Lovelace’s neck. The penguins scurry away mostly unscathed, and Mumble vows to find out what is happening to the fish.

Of course, the next thing he runs into is a trawler pulling in a net full of about 5 metric tons of Arctic Cod, and he follows the ship, thinking if he could just talk to them, he could get them to understand.

Poor Mumble never does get the ship to listen, and ends up washed up on some foreign shore, where he is found by humans and put into an exhibit at a zoo. While there, he nearly gives up all hope, until he manages to attract the attention of a little girl with some dancing. She goes to get her mom, and soon there is a full media circus about this dancing penguin.

Somehow, they get the idea that Mumble’s fellow penguins are suffering from a fish shortage, and we are then treated to several minutes worth of cut-scenes as the scientific and political leaders of the world decide what to do about fishing rights in the Arctic Ocean.

When next we see our intrepid hero, he is walking back to his flock and wearing a tracking device. He persuades the rest of the flock to dance, and the research team that tagged him comes swooping in on a helicopter, and we are treated to a brief first-encounter scene where the humans completely blow trying to dance like the penguins. Oh, happy ending :)

And yes, Mumble gets his girl.

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