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HAPPY FEET

Review by Michael Jacobson

Voices:  Elijah Wood, Robin Williams, Brittany Murphy, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Hugo Weaving
Director:  George Miller
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio:  Warner Bros.
Features:  See Review
Length:  109 Minutes
Release Date:  March 27, 2007

“I think you better dance now.”

Film ***1/2

Penguins win Oscars, folks…no doubt about it.

The documentary March of the Penguins took home a golden statue a few years ago, and now it’s the loveable singing and dancing penguins from Happy Feet waltzing away with the Best Animated Feature award.  It seemed to surprise a lot of people, but now that I’ve seen all three nominated films, I can say the right choice was made.

It tells a delightful tale of emperor penguins in the Antarctic.  These penguins win their mates with their songs, although I somehow doubt their real tunes sound like “Kiss” by Prince, but no matter.  Two of them, the rugged Memphis (Jackman) and Norma Jean (Kidman) fall in love and voila…produce an egg.  But the clumsy Memphis drops the egg during incubation…problems ahead

Possibly.  When their baby Mumble (Wood) is born, he’s a little different.  He has no singing voice, much to the shock of the community and dismay of his parents, but he was born with a gift:  he can dance like nobody’s business.  He’s happy.  Nobody else is.

Trying to make Mumble fit in is impossible, especially when the elder (Weaving) worries about their dwindling fish supply, and assumes it’s the wayward Mumble that’s making the “Great ‘Guin” angry with them.  Mumble, however, has heard stories about strange aliens stealing their fish, and once he is exiled, sets out to prove it to his fellow tuxedos once and for all.

It won’t be easy, but with the help of some smaller birds led by the rambunctious Ramon (Williams) and their guru Lovelace (Williams again), Mumble is determined to go where no penguin has gone before, and return with proof to his family, friends, and the love of his life Gloria (Murphy).

It’s a simple premise, but fraught with danger and spectacle.  This is computer animation taken to an extremely high level…not quite the stuff of The Incredibles, but the closest I’ve seen since then.  There is humor, action, and morals galore…everything you’d want in a family friendly flick.  And the music is something else…kind of reminded me of how they did it in Moulin Rouge. 

These infectious birds captured the hearts of movie lovers everywhere, and it’s easy to see why.  Happy Feet is a big, sprawling, funny and loveable slice of pure magical joy.

Video ****

Computer animation and DVD?  They go together like birds of a feather.  This anamorphic transfer from Warner is a sheer knockout from start to finish:  rich, detailed, colorful, and simply gorgeous.

Audio ****

The 5.1 audio will get your feet moving, with new renditions of classic songs from the likes of Prince, Queen, Chicago, Earth Wind and Fire, the Beach Boys and more.  There is plenty of action to keep your subwoofer rumbling and lots of crossover to keep you right in the middle of everything.  Dynamic range is quite potent…an outstanding effort!

Features **

The best extra is the inclusion of an all-time classic Warner Merrie Melodies animated short, “I Love to Singa”.  It’s similar in theme to the movie, as a little owl born to a classical music family finds his own voice in the world of jazz.  I’ve loved this one since I was a kid!

There are a couple of short animated clips, “Mumble Meets a Blue Whale” and “A Happy Feet Moment”, plus a trailer, two music videos, and a featurette with dance great Savion Glover, who choreographed the movie!

Summary:

Happy Feet is hardly for the birds.  This is one of the better animated films of the last few years; a wondrous combination of spectacle, humor, music and message.  Recommended.

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