a review by Tom Condon, OP (St. Martin)
In the great nation of Emperor Penguins,
deep in Antarctica, you’re nobody unless you can sing--which
is unfortunate for Mumble, who is the worst singer in the world.
He is born dancing to his own tune--tap dancing
I’d heard good things about this animated penguin
film. It came from nowhere to keep the new James
Bond movie out of first place at the box office this fall! So,
on a free evening, I decided to check it out. The surprise is
that Happy Feet is so much more than a cute cartoon about dancing
penguins. In its own way, it is an exuberant entertainment, as
much fun as anything I’ve seen at the movies all year.
first, Happy Feet looks very much like last year’s Oscar
winning hit, March of the Penguins. Penguins meet, fall in love,
the male guards the egg while the female goes off fishing. When
the egg watched over by its father Memphis (a great name) hatches
after the other eggs, they suspect something is wrong with the
chick. To Memphis’ horror, his offspring doesn’t sing
like the other penguins (hence his name “Mumble”),
but dances. No one in the group had ever seen anything like this.
So, Mumble is humiliated and cast out of the group. Escaping a
hungry seal, Mumble finds himself in a Latino penguin colony!
Naturally, the Latinos love Mumble’s dancing and he becomes
a huge celebrity.
Mumble returns to his own clan with his new Latino friends. Even
though many join in his dancing, he is denounced by the elders
as a bad influence. They even blame the lack of fish in the Antarctic
upon him! He decides to face the “alien” presence
which may understand the ecological crisis, and even be responsible
for this problem: humans.
Happy Feet is a winner on many levels. Its musical numbers are
great fun, from the singing penguins to the extraordinary dance
numbers, choreographed by the great tap dancer Savion Glover.
The animation of these numbers is mind-boggling. Equally impressive
are the action sequences, as Mumble flees seals, sharks, and humans
by swimming, diving, jumping up on the ice, and sliding on his
belly. Director George Miller leads us on a breathless pace around
the Antarctic. Finally, Happy Feet preaches a strong message about
the need to care for the delicate ecological balance of the earth.
The voracious human appetite for everything, without regarding
consequences on the earth and its inhabitants is severely criticized
The human race comes across worse than it has in any animated
film since Bambi. However, the end is hopeful that even we humans
can be converted.
In Happy Feet, the one who is different finds acceptance in another
culture. He returns home and is banished again. However, Mumble
shows great courage and becomes a hero. Happy Feet turns all our
stereotypes on their heads and finds redemption for all in a group
dance. You gotta love it.
Tom Condon, OP