‘Happy Feet’ gets a little heavy
I have no idea how this movie trumped “Casino Royale” on its opening weekend. Especially when director George Miller’s last flick was the ever-so-popular “Babe: Pig in the City.” In any case, the flippy, flappy, pop-centered movie bounces between a scary reality and an unbelievable frozen fantasy. The premise is that Emperor penguins, who live in Emperor Land, find their soul mate through song. Norma Jean, voiced by a Marilyn-Monroe-spiked Nicole Kidman, finds her true love in the Elvis-inspired Memphis, voiced by a throaty Hugh Jackman. Their little love child is aptly named Mumble, voiced by Elijah Wood. The problem? Their offspring can’t carry a tune in a bucket.
Not only can the little powder puff not sing, he dances, which makes him a social pariah among the other penguins. As Mumble grows up, or more aptly, as time passes, he becomes a bigger and bigger outcast from the Emperor clan. Strangely enough, Mumble never sheds his down, although the rest of his peers do. (If you ask me, Wood should try to land an adult acting job instead of playing childlike hobbits and juvenile penguins.)
After a horrifying chase with a leopard seal, Mumble literally lands among some Latin penguins, who are now charged with carrying the brunt of the comic effect of the movie. So who better to voice almost all of them than Robin Williams, right? Well, sure Williams is well-known and funny, but to have him voice three different little black-and-white dudes is just slightly some overkill. Not to mention, what’s up with racial stereotyping in this movie? I, for one, was unaware that ethnicity was really an issue between the waddling clans of frozen land. But whatever.
So our issue for this little toe-tapping flick, beside the apparent lack of pipes in our hero, is that the fish, the penguin’s life source, are disappearing. Read: here comes the scary reality part. The evil-doers who are responsible for scooping up all the fish out of the ocean are none other than you and me, champ. That’s right, humans, the huge fishing trawlers who net more fish in one day that a penguin has ever seen in his little life. And of course that means there is trash and other pollutants infiltrating the penguin’s lives, like the plastic ring that comes off a six-pack that ends up stuck around another one of Williams character’s neck.
Mumble stumbles through this weak plot and ends up back with his crew, who of course still think he is so un-penguin. But the hot mama of his crew, voiced by Brittany Murphy, still has the hots for his little soft-feathered butt. You can guess how the rest of the story goes.
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Another super pragmatic idea this film throws at its viewers is that different penguins, even ones who typically live in South America, can be all buddy-buddy and sing and dance together. It’s a nice idea, but contrasts weirdly with the somewhat serious subplot that shows how much we humans are screwing up the world. The name of this movie may include the word “happy,” but the underlying theme for this film is anything but.