Film Review - Happy Feet.jpg

Film Review – Happy Feet


Not just flightless birds at

the bottom of the world

LIKELY TO be affectionately dubbed March of the Penguins: The Musical, George Miller’s dive into full-blown computer animation drapes a relatively conventional story, about a young penguin’s struggles over being different, in striking visuals, invigorating songs and lively characterisations.

Set in an Antarctic emperor penguin colony, it becomes clear that every penguin must sing a unique song (a “Heart Song”) to attract a soul mate. Once emperor couples begin dating they can then recognise one another by their unique calls.

One particular couple, Memphis (voiced by Jackman) and Norma Jean (voiced by Kidman) pair up and produce an egg. The egg is left in Memphis’ care while Norma Jean and the other females leave to fish for several weeks. All is well until Memphis drops the egg in the freezing Antarctic temperatures, leaving the resulting chick, Mumble (voiced by Wood), completely tone deaf and incapable of singing. However, Mumble has an astute talent for tap dancing.

This unorthodox ability is frowned upon by the colony’s elders, who do not tolerate deviance of any kind. As a result, Mumble is quietly ostracised throughout his childhood, with only his parents and his friend Gloria (voiced by Murphy) to turn to.

Despite the great song-and-dance potential exhibited by Mumble and Gloria, Mumble is eventually exiled by the high priest (voiced by Weaving).

Mumble has no choice, but to become a vagabond penguin. Faced with danger at every turn, he is taken under the wing of a group of fiercely loyal penguins fronted by the slightly unhinged Ramón (voiced by Williams).

In his new setting, strange “alien encounters” occur and, driven by curiosity, Mumble sets out to find answers. Finding his way back to Emperor Nation, Mumble is marked as the cause of the colony’s food shortage, and he is exiled once again. Mumble vows to find the real cause of the fish famine.

Old songs are reworked into scenes to adapt to the situation of the characters, with the most impressive singing performances coming from Nicole Kidman and Brittany Murphy.

The first half of the movie flows smoothly until the plot flips on its head and the mood of the picture. It may come as a bit of shock to the system that an animated film about penguins has such a dramatic edge.

Although the film might prove a bit too different for a minority of parents, general reaction to Happy Feet is likely to be one of jaw-dropping amazement.

RATING: * * * *

*   missable

* *   reasonable

* * *   entertaining

* * * *   very good

* * * * * outstanding