Film Review: Happy Feet

Posted in Reviews on December, 11 2006 10:57 PM

Starring (the voices of): Elijah Wood, Robin Williams, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman
Cert:  U
Released: 8th December 2006

On the ice plains of the Antarctic lives a flock of Emperor penguins whose harmonic existence is based on the power of song. True soul mates are bound when two penguins' heart-songs connect.

But is proving to be a hard winter and fish are unusually scarce. This has coincided with the birth of an equally unusual penguin, Mumble, who cannot sing and cannot stop his feet from dancing.

If this does not alienate him from his fellow 'guins then their elders blaming him for the blight gets him banished. He uses this as motivation to hunt out some rumoured 'aliens' to see if they are responsible for their lack of food.

Photo realistic, animated penguins singing karaoke classics and performing Buzz Berkley routines? Who could ask for anything more?

The only way to judge family films these days are if they do actually appeal to the whole family. Gone are the innocent days of Disney dominion when they could just put a talking, anthropomorphic animal on the screen and get a resounding cheer of approval from their youthful target audience. Ever since Toy Story, parents have become more discerning as to the unadulterated pap they will let their offspring be psychologically scarred by. Nowadays it should be just ever so slightly adulterated to appeal to their own, more mature sensibilities. Nowadays a good family film contains anthropomorphic animals, sassiness and wry, cultural references that will make the young-uns say, 'What are you laughing at, daddy?'

Happy Feet does appeal to all with merchandise-friendly cuteness, juvenile silliness and a feel-good story wrapped up with Elvis Presley, Queen and 70's disco anthems. I defy anyone to not have their cold heart warmed by the all-encompassing climax.

Er, which isn't actually the end of the film. Just at the point that you think it should finish, it doesn't and then starts going a bit odd. What started off to be a funny, innocent and enjoyable plot then tried to become a deeper message about ecological responsibilities; how our pillaging of the planet's natural resources will affect the lives of other animals. This, in turn, may result in the extinction of some species and us missing out on some of Earth's most enthralling animals like - oh, I don't know - tap-dancing penguins, perhaps.

In trying to stretch out a perfectly acceptable and entertaining premise into a feature length film, and give it greater depth with this moralistic sub-plot it actually comes over as rather patronising because of its simplistic resolution. Starving penguins? Ah well, never mind. Oh! Tap-dancing, starving penguins? In that case we had better change our attitudes.

Unnecessary sycophancy mars an otherwise funny and engaging film.


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