Director: George Miller
Cast: Elijah Wood, Brittany Murphy, Robin Williams, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Hugo Weaving
Plot: A penguin (Wood) is outcast from his colony for preferring dancing over the more traditional singing, sending him on a journey of discovery.
Happy Feet, for the first hour, is family friendly fun at its very best. Penguins being the ‘in’ animal at the time, George Miller wastes no time in using that to benefit his latest offering to children’s cinema. Therefore, here we have a movie that flaunts the loveable creatures. And loveable, they certainly are. Miller takes the mating pattern of penguins, but adds his own musical twist. Whenever a male penguin wishes to find himself a mate, he launches into a serenade, wooing the female through music. It is there that Happy Feet finds its strongest sequences, as the entire colony bursts into terrific musical montages. The cast, from Hugh Jackman’s Elvis-esque vocals to Brittany Murphy’s outstanding pop tunes, completely live up to the reputation the musical side of the movie earns itself. The animated frames of the penguins gloriously getting swept up in a grand musical number is amazing to behold and you can picture the watching children squealing with excitement at the cute animals grooving to the beat. The adults in the audience will also appreciate some of the song choices. Brittany Murphy’s rendition of Prince’s Kiss is a great reinvention of the song. The action outside of the songs is also very good. There is a great sequence where Elijah Wood’s Mumbles takes on two single-minded Killer Whales in a battle sequence that boasts the impressive CGI with some memorable visuals. Making the line-up even better is Robin Williams coming along for the ride with his usual trait of providing the unstoppable laughs. He voices several characters here and puts his all into every one of them.
Then it all falls to pieces. Happy Feet is a movie with a message. A twist rocks up in the later acts that has a clear moral: humanity is damaging the environment. Suddenly, the fun and laughs come to an abrupt ending and the children watching the story are suddenly going through a PowerPoint presentation routine that they might have had at school. The movie suddenly makes the entire audience feeling guilty for going along to see a penguin in a zoo. Mumbles is reduced to a whimpering mess, losing his sanity and personality, as he spends a montage trapped in an aquarium, stared at by the faceless and nameless humans through the alien glass. It is a gut-wrenching piece of cinema that shocks the audience. Yes, this is the point, but the direction is so heavy-handed that you wish that Miller had the good sense to go for a much more subtle approach. Environmental messages have their place in cinema, but they should never sacrifice entertainment, especially in this certain genre. As a result, the tonally awkward ending of this one ruins everything a pretty excellent first half built up. Even the encore finale song doesn’t quite work to lift the mood.
Final Verdict: This movie’s ending is the very definition of buzzkill. On the other hand, you have to applaud the rest of the film.