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:: Happy Feet

This is animation of the highest order; quite breathtaking with the mass of computer generated penguins and beautiful cinematography. The long camera shots of the penguin population and close-ups of character interactions are exceedingly good.

The story concerns a young penguin named Mumble Happy Feet (voice by Elijah Wood) who has a fatal flaw for an Antarctic bird: he can’t sing. Mumble’s problem is embarrassing for his parents Memphis and Norma Jean (voices by Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman) because they both do it beautifully. Mumble’s gift seems to be his feet. He can tap dance wonderfully. But what’s the point, one may ponder.

Noah (voice by Hugo Weaving) is the leader of the tribe and he banishes Mumble from their midst, holding him responsible for the recent fish shortage that’s been driving the group towards starvation. The exiled Mumble finds some friends in a hip Mexican gang as they search for the human elements who are polluters of the ocean and taking the fish. The guru of the Latin gang is Lovelace (voice by Robin Williams).

Despite the charm and the animation, the story is a bit too thin to sustain a long running time. Director George Miller combined with three other writers for “Happy Feet”, yet one feels as if they strained to reach feature length proportions. I was getting tired of the sight of penguins after a while.

This sort of film is probably more suited to the occasional distractions of home viewing, where you can take a break or two in between the film. The two action sequences were interesting enough but they seem out of kilter with the film’s ecological message – incidental to the plot. Seals and killer whales do directly kill penguins and intentionally eat them.

The environmental issue is stated in the latter part of the film. While the message is worthy in highlighting the penguins’ predicament and setting off a movement to stop Antarctic fishing, it can be seen as inappropriate for such a generally upbeat children’s film.

There is fun action and good music, though, that outweighs this in order to satisfy the young children.