If March of the Penguins has not already done it, Happy Feet would do for emperor penguins what Finding Nemo did for clownfish – make them stars of the animal world.
Singing, dancing stars at that.
It’s mating season in Antarctica and love is in the air. Their eyes meeting across a crowded ice floe, Norma Jean (Nicole Kidman in Marilyn Monroe mode) and Memphis (Hugh Jackman doing an Elvis impersonation) make beautiful music together – literally, as it’s how penguins court. Heartbreak Hotel meets You Don’t Have to be Rich.
If you can’t sing, you’re not much of a penguin. Problem is, when Norma Jean and Memphis have a chick, Mumble (Elijah Wood) what comes out of his throat is a throttled squawk. But boy, can he move his feet.
Tap dancing isn’t enough to cut it in Emperor Penguin land though, so Mumble wanders off to hang out with a smaller species of penguin and falls in with a group of Latino playboys called The Amigos, led by Raul (Robin Williams). Together the lads go and see Lovelace (Williams again), the overweight guru who holds the key to the mystery of why the fish supply is drying up.
I do love a good animated movie. They’re so much damn fun, and a delight to look at. The ending is a bit corny, Mumble is not the most compelling hero in the history of fiction and the female characters are push-overs, but Happy Feet is still great. The animation is another benchmark for this sort of film, with scenes such an avalanche, a chase involving a leopard seal and killer whales playing around at an abandoned whaling station particularly stunning.
Williams and the Amigos are hilarious, and the songs are will get you going too. I particularly liked a soaring version of Queen’s Somebody to Love performed by Brittany Murphy.
By the way, don’t be fooled into thinking this is all cutesy penguins and perky songs. There’s some intense scenes where Mumble flees the jaws of predators, and a quite disturbing scene towards the end.