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I saw this film on October 2nd, 2006 in Indianapolis. I am one of the
judges for the Heartland Film Festival's Truly Moving Picture Award. A
Truly Moving Picture "
explores the human journey by artistically
expressing hope and respect for the positive values of life." Heartland
gave that award to this film.
It's not easy being a young penguin when you can't sing and singing well is how you find your one true soul mate. The mating happens when young couples are attracted to each other's own rendition of their heart song. And to make matters even worse, the young penguin, Mumble, is a natural tap dancer, which is not appreciated by his parents or his teachers or the penguin colony. And to top it all off, there is a shortage of fish and no one knows why.
The unhappy young Mumble runs into 5 small Latino penguins from another penguin colony and the adventure takes off. The story line cuts back and forth between the fish shortage environmental mystery and Mumble's attempt to be attractive to Gloria, his love interest. Along the way he runs into penguin eating birds and penguin eating mammals and almost alien-like man made machines.
This is a musical comedy animation and the songs are classic rock and the dance routines are Broadway-theater clever and these songs and dances never stop throughout the film.
Mumble is a loser in the eyes of his peers, and feels a lot of pain. But he is also heroic and brave and optimistic and he never gives up. Those traits do not let him down. Mumble can pass on an important message to young people. It's your attitude that can carry you through successfully in life. It is not always about physical attributes and physical beauty.
Robin Williams voices Ramon, one of the small Latino penguins, and also Lovelace, the film-flam psychic of the Latino penguin colony. Robin Williams' two characters are over the top which is perfect for the normally over the top Robin Williams. This comedic element keeps the film from taking its adult themes too seriously.
FYI There is a Truly Moving Pictures web site where there is a listing of past Truly Moving Picture Award winners that are now either at the theater or available on video.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I saw this last weekend at a special screening and was suitably
impressed. Although I'm a big fan of George Miller's films, I was very
hesitant to see this one. I'm not a big fan of animated films, much
less musicals. The trailers looked awful and indicated nothing about
the story. Until the screening came up, I had no intention of seeing
this on the big screen. After the opening musical number, the movie
quickly won me over. The way it's made is incredibly cinematic, and, at
its heart, tells a great mythic story: an outcast leaves his community
and journeys to the edge of the world to find a way to end the famine
that's plaguing his species. Along this quest, our hero, Mumble, learns
to live with his outsider status (he can't sing) and makes use of his
own particular gift (tap dancing). It's a simple story that's told in a
very creative way with a lot of heart.
The musical numbers, instead of having a disrupting effect and stopping the flow of the story, actually advance the plot because they're integral to the story and this particular type of penguin. Emperor Penguins apparently find their mates by singing. While it all sounds the same to us, they are highly attuned to each others songs. The film cleverly translates that idea to the screen by having these animated penguins sing iconic pop/rock songs.
I thought the animation was top notch and the style perfectly suited for the story. This isn't the goofy cartoonish animation seen in this past year's other animal-oriented films. It's very rich and leaning heavily towards realism. The vast icy landscapes seem to be copied straight from documentary footage. Just jaw-droppingly beautiful.
There's one shot in the film which really epitomizes how well made it is and made me love it that much more. Mumble, his four friends, and the old wise mentor (Lovelace) are heading to the edge of the world as they know it. They're caught in a snow blizzard. The six penguins are shown in almost a dark silhouette as they struggle to move forward. The fading red light of the sun provides faint illumination. As the penguins are pushed back by the blizzard, they lean into the wind and keep going. It's almost like something out of a Kurosawa movie. And that's all it is. Just one shot of the blizzard. But it's beautifully done. Never seen anything like it in an animated film.
By the end of the film, my initial reservations about the film were completely washed away. Disregard the lame trailers and see it for yourself.
Happy Feet, directed by the man who gave us both Babe: Pig in the City
and Mad Max, is just the kind of feel-good animated film that works on
a few different levels; it'll make you laugh, it'll make you cry, and
it'll inevitably, unquestionably, make you tap your toes or bounce your
leg, right there in the theater. It's charming and exquisitely
detailed, and it succeeds where it really counts: It makes you really
feel for the lovable lead penguin, Mumble (voiced by Elijah Wood).
Mumble is an unfortunate penguin, you see, because was born with no singing ability, and in his penguin tribe one attracts a mate through the use of song. The poor flightless bird can only look on helplessly as his fellow hatchlings croon their little hearts out. Amazingly, though, Mumble can tap dance, a big no-no in the penguin community. Soon, with no heart song to guide him, Mumble isn't permitted to graduate from school, to the chagrin of his Elvis-like dad (Hugh Jackman) and his songbird-like mom (Nicole Kidman).
Mumble heart belongs to the best singer in his age group, Gloria (Brittany Murphy), but without the gift of song he can't hope to woo her. Worse, with the penguins' food supply running out, some of the other birds begin to blame Mumble's foot-tapping, that somehow he is angering the great god Guin. The sad-sack penguin is then drummed out of the penguin corps, shunned for his lack of song and strength of feet, and he runs into another penguin colony, one that uses pebbles to woo their females instead of song, and makes new friends - a Latino-sounding quartet that's high on life, full of zest and pizazz and charisma, everything that Mumble's old group isn't.
Then Mumble hears from some predator birds of mysterious "aliens" who probe and attach tags to their victims. Mumble thinks these aliens might have something to do with the lack of fishies for everyone to munch on, so he and his new pals head off on a Quest to find these aliens and ask them to stop stealing all the fish.
Some of the scenes are beautifully imagined, including attacks by sea lions (quite harrowing, actually, until its denouement), vultures, and killer whales, not to mention every time Mumble and/or his posse leap off a cliff and slide down the side like avian sleds. Or through ice tunnels. Or through the water itself, shooting like streaming jetliners with mile-long contrails. Gorgeous animation.
At its heart, the movie is about how it's okay to Be Different. It's about how older folks sometimes hold prejudices that are as illogical as they are insulting, and how they'll often pass along those prejudices to their children, sometimes through direct actions and sometimes by dint of their inaction when wrongs are being perpetuated.
Robin Williams takes on four roles in this movie: the Narrator (where he's excellent and not at all hammy), Ramon and Cletus (two of the feisty new penguins), and Lovelace, a self-professed penguin guru to whom penguins go to have their problems solved. On the one hand, Williams is delightful doing what he does best, improvising rapid-fire comic patter to get laughs; on the other hand, he's Robin Williams, and although there are differences between his voice characterizations, they all bear a strong resemblance to one another. As with most animated films, the movie is well-cast; Jackman is particular has an appealing Southern drawl (ironically, he and Kidman are Aussies playing penguins with southern accents).
In the wake of the phenomenal, surprise success of March of the Penguins, Happy Feet makes your heart soar from start to finish. It'll be very difficult not to shed a tear at the mistreatment of Mumble by his peers and his elders, and it'll be near impossible to thoroughly enjoy this dazzling animated offering.
Finally saw this on Sunday when it previewed in the UK (out on full
release Friday). The cinema was packed with kids ranging from babies to
teenagers. Our group had kids from 3-15 in it as well as the parents.
We all absolutely loved it; what I thought was so good was that the
kids in the party all reacted according to their ages. The little ones
just thought the penguins were cute and the chase scenes etc were
thrilling. But the older ones thought the film had a deeper message and
really enjoyed it.
I would normally be fairly bored at a kids' film and have just gone to take the kids - but all the adults were fascinated the whole time. We all agreed that it was easily the best animated movie of the year. I would recommend it for any age of kid. The audience in general obviously loved it judging by the laughter but by the enthralled silence at the dramatic parts.
Most families obviously consist of children of different ages - so it is not easy to find a film that appeals to teenagers as well as 3 year olds. This one did - an had the adults enthralled as well. I am not surprised that it beat Casino Royale at the Box Office in US 2 week ends running.
The green message was great - I think it is really important that children should be aware of not littering etc, respecting the planet, from a young age. Having said that, I'm not sure the kids really got that message but it might have had some effect on the older ones.
Have read some stuff on here saying kids should not be taught liberal values or not be made aware of them. Liberal values like tolerance and fairness etc. The film didn't promote those values more than a lot of kids' movies but even if it had I can't imagine why anyone would be worried about that so I'm not going to give it serious consideration.
The film I went to see was basically a really exciting adventure story with excellent acting - you really felt for Mumble - he wasn't just a stock character. I thought Elijah Wood did an excellent job in that role. Quite a few people on the internet are asking - why use such famous actors for Happy Feet - why not have an unknown voice cast? Obviously having a very big name cast of A listers costs far more and so reduces the profits - at least that might appear to be the case. Here is one reply I found - "some of the famous actors out there are famous (and expensive) for a reason- they're good at what they do. Elijah Wood really is pretty amazing at playing a sympathetic lead; Nicole Kidman has a fantastic singing voice to go along with a sweet stage presence...." The visual effects were really breath-taking, probably the best animation I've ever seen. But the film also had an intriguing story with some depth - it wasn't just a bland cutesy film.
I strongly recommend it for children, especially when you think of all the predictable rubbish that Hollywood often serves up for family films.
Up-date - I am very pleased that it won the Oscar for Best Animated; I thought that it was clearly the best animated film of the year - and also I was pleased to see the Academy award originality and depth as opposed to a pleasant but rather bland, mix-as-before Pixar product.
Tap-dancing penguins could never have been pitched if the mega-hit doc
Marching Penguins (2005) had not caught the imagination of every
breathing human. Only this time around Happy Feet is not a doc but a
high-class animation (from the director of the very humane Babe) and
much more anthropomorphic than Marching Penguins because these are
Besides the themes of individualism and environmental destruction, Happy Feet's special effects take animation as close to 3-D as could be possible in a 2-D medium. One scene with frolicking penguins careening down a mountain has the sight and sound of rapid descent so authentic as to make me cringe at each turn for fear of flying off the snow into the sky. The colors are luminous and the long and helicopter-like shots stunning enough to make you feel you're watching IMAX.
Mumble (voice of Elijah Wood) has no singing voice, so he can't sing a "heart-song," the signature croon of a male to attract a female for life. But as Nature frequently compensates, that boy can dance. A hard-to-accept-it dad (Hugh Jackman) laments, "It just ain't penguin." The adventures of this hippity-hop outcast bring him to a band of diminutive Latinos headed by a savvy Ramon (Robin Williams), who helps him to find his inner heart-song in his feet and eventually the source of fish depletion (the "aliens" are a familiar race of buccaneersus).
Along the way Mumble finds soulful love with Gloria (Brittney Murphy), a young lady strong in song and belief in Mumble. Speaking of song, much of the score, while replete with pop standards from the likes of the Beach Boys and Sinatra, adapts several gospel tunes to accentuate the theme of a savior being rejected by his own kind.
Happy Feet is a happy film that features cutting-edge CG while it teaches young and old about tolerance and talent. This is the season for the tuxedo crowdshaken and stirred.
Rarely do I enjoy animated films these days: I find the animation (mostly computer generated) to be colorful but banal, and the action angles are selected by the programmer's eye, not the way a natural observer would have seen the shot (like we saw in classic cell animation of years past). "Happy Feet" is different. The combination of rotoscoping (now advanced motion capture), intense attention to detail and organic POV make this film extraordinarily enjoyable to watch. The sound quality was top-notch, and the music loads of fun for anyone with a pulse. The character voices from Robin Williams, Elijah Wood, Hugh Jackman, and others was perfectly matched to their characterizations. Savion Glover's performance as Mumble's ecstatic feet was not only good as a an animated fanciful Emperor Penguin, but also valid as a fine, skilled tap dancer; one of the finest. The continuity was good, impressive editing, and the message clear: celebrate our differences, adapt to change when necessary, and don't be afraid to take on challenges, even when they seems insurmountable. That's a great message for anyone at any age.
This movie set the bar at a new level for animation. This is a great
companion piece to "March of the Penguins". (In fact, you should see
"March of the Penguins" before seeing this one.) While the stock
animated movie script still seems be 'cute-yet-quirky animals on
quest', this one pulls it off better than most.
Arguably, the film makers tried to cram too many songs into the soundtrack. And the story didn't need to be as long as it was but the overall environmental message was good.
In the end, you'll look how the choices of our 'modern' lifestyles affect the rest of the world.
This movie is definitely worth the watch -- and a discussion with your kids afterward.
Overall, I enjoyed this movie and don't regret having gone to see it. I
feel like the animators, actors doing voices and Savion Glover (hope I
spelled that right!) wasted some of their efforts on an
I admire the environmental theme, but felt like it was being shoved down our throats .. with no real solutions suggested, either. Some portions of the script were not explained well .. like how on earth Mumbles got back from the zoo to his family. Okay .. and why can't Mumble molt correctly, and why does his face look different from all of the other adult penguins? That's never explained, either.
I laughed and smiled my way through the first half of the movie, and it felt like the second half dragged on endlessly and made little sense. :-< I was expecting to love this movie a lot more than I did.
This is the kind of movie that conceals deeper depths and vividly
exhilarating emotion overall.
First interpretation: "Ok, it's a movie about a penguin that dances and has trouble finding a mate. How profound can this movie be?" Then the movie revealed themes I never thought they would accomplish such as Religious fanaticism and Human's destruction of the environment.
It reminded me of 6th Sense because it was so twisted yet taught a very important moral lesson.
Robin Williams is the highlight of the movie, his 2 characters are both well portrayed and well voiced.
Highly recommended. It made me want to go out and save the penguins.
I really appreciated that this movie was as adorable as it was. If you are looking for a movie that will make you want to laugh and cry, and will definitely have you thinking (about taking dance lessons & about the world as it is now) then this is the movie for you. While the movie has some dark turns, it tackles the environmental issues that the whole world is being confronted with in a way that is neither overbearing, nor too old for children. Not only did this movie make me want a penguin of my own, but it made me want to help our world stop over producing, and start preserving. More importantly, if you want to take kids to see this movie, its perfect. There's a good chance they will be waddling like a penguin for a week!
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