out of Five
Running time: 108
Probably the weirdest children's movie of the year – this is slightly too long but it's beautifully made, superbly acted and a lot of fun.
What's it all about?
Elijah Wood voices Mumble, a young emperor penguin in Antarctica who is unable to sing and therefore unable to find a mate using his heartsong. He can tap-dance up a storm but that only makes things worse and his father (Hugh Jackman) tells him that it's not very penguin (spot the metaphor).
Shunned by the colony, Mumble finds friendship and acceptance with a group of adelie penguins led by the lively Ramon (Robin Williams). He then sets out to save the colony by persuading the aliens (ie
humans) to stop depleting their food supply, a message he communicates via - yes! - the medium of dance.
If there's one thing that Hollywood learnt from March of the Penguins it is this: Penguins equal Big Box-Office Bucks. So it's no surprise to see them pulling out all the stops with this all-singing, all-dancing penguin epic.
The animation is breathtakingly beautiful throughout and the designs are so realistic that at times it's like watching a documentary. Or it would be, if the penguins didn't keep singing pop songs every five minutes.
Director George Miller (Babe) brings a refreshing note of darkness to Happy Feet that sets it apart from the usual animated animal nonsense.
Wood makes a likeable lead and Robin Williams is on top comic form as both Ramon (his Spanish version of My Way is a definite highlight) and the prophet Lovelace, a rockhopper penguin.
There are also some delightfully bizarre touches, such as the Giant Penguin Deity that the penguins worship and Nicole Kidman's note-perfect Marilyn Monroe impersonation as Norma Jean (Mumble's mother).
It's slightly too long but Happy Feet is both bizarre and hugely enjoyable, whilst its twin messages of tolerance and environmentalism are delivered with style and humour. Recommended.