Happy Feet Will Make Your Feet Tap Until the End
by Dave Minkus
November 18, 2006
In a world of penguins that attract mates by singing to each other, poor Mumble (Elijah Wood) was born with a voice that only a mother could love. When he is ostracized and kicked out of the colony, he goes on an adventure to save that same colony. Will he succeed? It's a kid's movie - you better know the answer to that. The way they get there will probably surprise you, though.
In a time where computer animated films can generally be written off as bad, Happy Feet really knows how to have a good time and you will enjoy going along for the ride. After seeing Happy Feet on the IMAX screen, I can't recommend that anyone watch it on a regular screen. I was completely immersed in the action sequences as well as the underwater scenes. They are amazing and have to be experienced in the theater (specifically, the IMAX screen) to be fully appreciated.
Granted the scenes with the Emperor penguins were mostly musical, they were done well enough to be enjoyed. Once Mumble meets up with Ramon (Robin Williams) and his crew, the film really becomes fun. I know that a lot of people are tired of Robin Williams, but he was really fun in this film both as Ramon and Lovelace. Hugh Jackman as Mumble's father, Memphis, does a fun Elvis impersonation throughout the film. There aren't any truly standout performances, but you don't need them in this film.
So far so good, right? So why did I give this film a 6? It's true that Happy Feet finds a way to make what is generally a tired kid-film formula actually fun. The problem comes in the last half hour. Suddenly you find yourself taken out of Happy Feet the "kiddy flick" and are transported to Happy Feet the "environmentalist propaganda" film. One thing that has to be said is that I have no problem with the environmental movement and sharing the importance of taking care of our surroundings to children. However, it's an entirely separate issue to have a film essentially mock religion as an opiate for the masses and take the environmental issue to the point of actually showing debates in the U.N. It would have been very simple to have Mumble inspire the world in harmony to protect the environment. Instead, they show politicians arguing and asking why we should do anything. I will go so far as to say the ending was inappropriate for a children's film.
If you want to take the kids to enjoy a fun movie, you could do a lot worse than Happy Feet. The only redeeming quality to the irresponsible way the ending was handled is that most young children won't even catch what the filmmakers are trying to say, so they'll have a good time. There is a lot of fun action, great comedy and well done musical numbers. If you can just ignore the last half hour of the film, you won't feel like you've wasted your time and money.