– Summary –
Director : George Miller
Year Of Release : 2006
Principal Cast : Elijah Wood, Robin Williams, Brittany Murphy, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Hugo Weaving, Carlos Alazraqui, Steve Irwin, Lombardo Boyar, Jeffrey Garcia, Johnny Sanchez, Miriam Margoyles, Fat Joe, Anthony LaPaglia, Roger Rose.
Approx Running Time : 108 Minutes
Synopsis: A lone penguin, who cannot sing, takes to the sea on a journey to ask Mankind not to fish in their territory any more.
What we think : Dazzling eco-friendly feel-gooder about penguins, features an all-star cast and some dynamite musical numbers. The animation is astonishingly good, and although the story wanders into claptrap territory, in the end it’s all smiles and cheers for the stumbling, bumbling black-n-white creatures from down south.
Whimsical, moral, fantastically made fable film in which a young penguin journeys across the ice of the Antarctic to discover his destiny. Born without a heart-song, young Mumble is an outcast in his society, unable to find a mate, and without any prospects whatsoever. Mumble’s heart belongs to Gloria, a young female penguin whom is desired by all the local lads. When Mumble commits one sin too many, he is ostracized by his peers and elders, sending him out into the wide world and away from their colony.
Mumble, who cannot sing, but dances his way through life, is outcast by the powers that be in his group, and must fend for himself in the big wide world. His parents, voiced by Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman, are desperate for Mumble to conform, to fit in, however, he cannot, and they despari him ever returning when he is forced to leave. His love, Gloria, follows Mumble part of the way, imploring him to come back, to try fitting in, no matter his differences.
Yet, Mumble cannot. He and his Amigos, a group of smaller penguins who all speak with Spanish accents (didn’t know Spain controlled any portion of Antarctica!) continue their journey to find the Aliens who are stealing all their fish. The Aliens, who are actually Human Beings, have been fishing in the waters off the continental shelf of Antarctica, and the stocks are now running low for the natural inhabitants of the land. Mumble, thinking he can reason with the Aliens, set’s off on his journey accompanied by the thrill-seeking Amigos, to the uncharted lands far north.
Along the way, Mumble befriends Lovelace, a small penguin with leadership aspirations voiced by a wonderful Robin Williams, who has set himself up as a guru-type character and self-proclaimed leader of his colony. This is due to the plastic six-pack rings around his neck, which, it so happens, are slowly strangling him to death. With Lovelace and his Amigos, Mumble continues his journey towards the Aliens, Lovelace disbelieving of the young penguins hope, and wanting to see these Aliens with his own eyes. The Amigos are going along simply for the fun and excitement, and perhaps a bit to do with the fact they’ve got nothing better to do.
Happy Feet is a film filled with some wonderful songs and images: particularly, the day of graduation for the young penguins, who stand upon the precipice of ice, staring down into the blue water of the ocean, hundreds of feet below. They await the first brave soul to dive in, to show it’s safe, before plunging in themselves. Mumble, who slip-slides his way through the crowd and over the edge, is the first penguin of the group to do so, and once he appears unharmed, the rest of his “classmates” follow suit. Mumble and Gloria have an obvious affection for each other, and this is displayed with a simple fish-giving moment between the pair. It’s a glorious exploration of penguin life, as the group of innocents all chase the fish through the ocean currents, beneath the ice-packs and yawning chasms of water, in a highly choreographed ritualistic dance, which will bring a smile to any jaded viewer.
Happy Feet ranks quite highly in the list of all time great animated films, here at fernbyfilms.com. Not only is it a great animated film, but it’s a great film, period. Director George Miller has crafted a wondrous, fantastical, crisp film of an almost epic nature, with plenty of subtext about being one’s own person, not being a conformist for the sake of being one, of rising above the natural order: all themes for which the film has been both praised and lambasted.
I remember reading an early review of Happy Feet on an online website which absolutely caned the storyline and characterisations within the film, claiming it was religious zealotry the highest order, and contained more subtext and iconography than a film of this type should. Utter rubbish. Some people seem to find something to complain about in anything, which annoys me no end. Happy Feet is about as far from a religious zeitgeist as possible: it’s themes are far more broad spectrum than simply having a dig at any kind of faith. If one had to be drawn on the message of the film, it’s that perhaps you shouldn’t simply accept what you have as all you get, and maybe, just maybe, you should get off your butt and go outside and have a look around and figure things out for yourself. It’s what Mumble did, and he managed to accomplish something no-one in his whole group did: bring about a change that made things… better.
One of the dazzling things about Happy Feet is the quality of animation, and the level of detail that has gone into the film. It’s understandable for an animated film to be a little slippery on the fine detail in the images it puts out, however, Happy Feet, making use of the fill 2.40:1 frame on DVD, is absolutely stunning. There’s wispy snow, hurricane-like blizzards, incredible water effects, creatures that look like they’re utterly real, and some of the most realistically developed landscapes I think I’ve ever seen in a film made using computers. There’s not a frame of film that isn’t pure eye candy, be it the central characters or the lavish, eye-wateringly cool backgrounds. There’s a moment in the film, where Millers cuts to a super-wide master shot, with a slow push in on Mumble and the Amigos scurrying across the ice and snow (into the wind) where the snow and sleet being moved is so utterly realistic, you almost forget you’re watching a CGI film. It’s stunning, and the Australian artists who worked on the film are to be commended. If I didn’t know better I’d almost had said Bazz Luhrmann directed this film, but Miller’s style and captivating use of the widescreen frame is almost Zemekis-like in it’s technical achievement.
It goes without saying that this is one of the singular achievements in animation, both for the genre overall and for the concept here in Australia. It’s an uplifting, joyous zenith of a film, a poetic journey on which we are taken as viewers, that will leave you singing along with the film and smiling the whole time. Subversive, it’s not. Half-baked, it’s not. Happy Feet is one of the few CGI films I have seen that rank up alongside Toy Story as one of the genre’s true classics, and will rightly be regarded as such into the far future.
So, do yourself a favour, find your own heartsong and delve headlong into Happy Feet now, you’ll find yourself being swept up with the infectious enthusiasm the film projects.