I finally forced myself to sit down and watch Happy Feet. Everyone who has seen it has told me to see it, and everyone who has seen it upon finding out I haven't seen it has been shocked beyond belief. I mean, it's an animated musical. What could I not like about it?
Happy Feet came out around the time of March of the Penguins, Farce of the Penguins and Surf's Up. A part of me felt as if Warner Bros' was just trying to compete. There was also nothing really about the movie that excited me. It was a jukebox musical (a musical using previously known songs) and those are always tricky, I wasn't too aware of it's cast (but if I had known that Nicole Kidman and Brittany Murphy had singing parts in this I would've been all over that CD) and the look of the film appeared to be unimaginative. It just looked blah.
That was all changed once I saw the amazing CGI recreation of the penguins and their environment and Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman's beautiful opening number. The film's CGI is far from cheap or gimmicky. A lot of love went behind the look of the penguins and the feel for the piece over all. The songs do what their supposed to do: move a story forward. The songs are very integral to the plot and do not detract.
The plot is also surprisingly multi layered. This film could have easily been a fluff piece, but there are so many issues and themes scattered throughout the movie. In this movie alone we deal with religion, class system, and how one can be treated for being different.
Mumbles, our hero of the piece and voiced by Elijah Wood as an adult and Elizabeth Daily as a youngin', is born different from the rest of his penguin neighborhood for the simple fact that he wasn't born with a natural singing voice and he dances. No other penguin in the pack dances. They think it's weird. For this he is automatically shunned and his father is ashamed of him. He finds a friend in Gloria (Britanny Murphy) and always has the support of his mother voiced by Nicole Kidman. Along his adventures he also makes fast friends with a pack of latino voiced penguins.
Mumble's parents are named Norma Jean and Memphis. Get it? I thought it was pretty clever.
I think as long as people keep being dramatically afraid of what they don't understand, stories with the theme of isolation will always thrive. So sadly, they will always thrive.
Where the movie threw me off a little was at it's second act where it seems to be another movie altogther. I originally was going to argue that it seems to begin as one type of movie and then turn into another, but Happy Feet defies so many rules already that it works. This movie begins as a musical, and then evolves into an action adventure science fiction movie. I would've preferred to have more songs pushing the story forward in the second act, but I was so caught up in the struggle of our characters that I didn't even notice. This is risky film making and I wish more studios would be this risky.
Happy Feet is a wholly unique experience and one I'll be buying on blu-ray. The blu-ray also contains a bonus cartoon, I Love to Singa, from the Warner Bros. Vault that explains this cute joke from South Park.
Looking for a good musical and an awesome CGI experience? This is it. Not South Park, Happy Feet of course.