Starring: Elijah Wood, Brittany Murphy, Robin Williams
Director: George Miller
Running Time: 108 mins
Happy Feet is an American film about Mumble, a young Emperor penguin who has a talent for dancing. Unfortunately, those around him do not share his affinity for dance, and instead expect him to be able to sing. Isolated from the rest of his pack, Mumble finds himself alone on a great adventure to find himself, and what is stealing all the fish from the Antarctic waters.
This is undoubtedly a cute movie, with a heap of brilliant voice performances, great animation, a stunning soundtrack, generally very funny comedy, and a story that gives off a nice message about being yourself. However, the plot is in general not that interesting, and when the film moves into a more dramatic third act, it suddenly becomes a lot less engaging.
Let’s start with the voice performances in Happy Feet. Elijah Wood and Brittany Murphy are excellent in the lead roles, and supporting players such as Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman are just as good. However, the one real stand-out performance here is from none other than Robin Williams.
Williams plays two characters, one of which is the charismatic soothsayer Lovelace, who is a lot of fun to watch, and the other is a chirpy little Latino penguin named Ramón. In every scene that he appears, I couldn’t stop laughing at Ramón. He’s a little ball of energy that’s just effortlessly hilarious time and time again, and with the brilliant comedic voice of Robin Williams, he’s even funnier to watch, and I’m sure that he alone provided around half of all the laughs I got out of Happy Feet.
Also, the animation isn’t bad. You could say that the penguins look a little dated and cartoonish now, but the backgrounds and landscapes are far from that – because they’re absolutely spectacular, and, combined with George Miller’s impressive direction, make for at times a visually dazzling film.
My favourite part of Happy Feet, however, is definitely the soundtrack. This is a film that’s all about penguins that love to sing, and they picked some perfect songs to go along with that premise. Using all sorts of pop hits, the musical numbers in this film are so much fun to watch, combined with eye-catching dancing, and, rather surprisingly, they fly by and are the most entertaining part of the entire film.
Overall, I did enjoy Happy Feet, but I was really disappointed by the direction that it took in the final act. For the first hour or so, this is a kids’ film that feels just right. It’s cute, light-hearted, but still full of hilarious comedy. However, as we move into the final act, it all starts to get excessively dramatic and preachy as an environmental message takes centre stage.
Although there are mentions of humans stealing the penguins’ fish earlier on, they’re fleeting references that make little difference. However, when this film begins to put too much emphasis on its environmental message (a similar misstep that The Simpsons Movie made), it loses its enjoyability factor. If it were a film that had a more consistently dramatic tone, the message wouldn’t have been such a problem, but it’s the fact that Happy Feet has such a jarring shift in tone in the final act that’s really disappointing to see, and that’s why it gets a 7.0 from me.