Emperor Penguin Mumbles (voice of Elijah Wood) is born different to the others: he can't sing, which is how penguins find a mate. His special talent is tap dancing, or happy feet, as he calls it. Considered an outcast by all the other penguins except his mum, Norma Jean (Nicole Kidman) - even his dad (Hugh Jackman) is ashamed - but Mumbles finds a soul mate in Gloria (Brittany Murphy). Even she can't save him from Noah the Elder (Hugo Weaving) who casts him out. But then he meets with the kooky Adelie Amigos, led by Ramon (Robin Williams) who quickly take to his happy feet and introduce him to Lovelace the Guru (Robin Williams), who eventually leads them to the 'aliens' who are littering their world, and taking all their fish. Mumbles now has a mission ...
Review by Louise Keller:
With its cast of thousands, Happy Feet is a spectacular extravaganza of a musical that breaks the ice both technically and literally. Visually, George Miller's fantasy is a dream, with its saturated colours, technical gee-whizzery and adorable singing, dancing penguins that lure us into their unique icy world. It's an adventure, musical, romance and coming of age story all rolled into one, and audiences of all ages will be captivated. At the story's heart is the story of one little penguin who dares to be different and finds a way to make a difference. Beyond the cute factor, there's an ecologically sound moral, although the integration of humans into the story is its weakest point. While the film may lack the kind of emotional depth we encountered in Babe, it is a truly magical experience.
'It just ain't penguin,' says Hugh Jackman's Penguin dad Memphis, when Elijah Wood's baby Mumble taps his penguin feet in a burst of happiness display. If you saw the Oscar winning March of the Penguins, you will be familiar with the nurturing process when the mother penguin leaves the precious egg to incubate in the male penguin's care. It is the moment when Memphis drops the egg, that the damage is done, and the musical gene common to all penguins skips its way into a dance gene instead. There are singing classes in search of a heart-song, followed by wonderful scenes in which Mumble teams up with the cuter-than-cute Adelie Amigos Latino penguins (headed by Robin Williams) who sing up a storm. All the voices work beautifully - Jackman as the Southern Memphis, Nicole Kidman as the breathy Norma Jean, Brittany Murphy as Mumble's diva girlfriend Gloria, and Wood as the unselfconscious penguin who dares to believe.
The music is cleverly conceived and we have great fun as the penguins slip and slide down the icy slopes, endure the terror as the whales snap their jaws and watch in wonder as they dive into the waters in formation and perform impressive gymnastics. It's a triumph for Animal Logic who has brought the penguins to life and the scene showing thousands of penguins tapping their feet in harmony is a delight. The innovation is inspiring, in this happiest of happy films that will make audiences smile all through the summer.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Variously exhilarating, moving and funny, Happy Feet combines cute with caring as it unleashes musical penguins on a movie world stuffed with animated animals. For once, it's not too much, and the visual thrills of an Antarctic setting add to the pleasures of this extraordinary undertaking. Sydney's Animal Logic has equalled Pixar's prowess in high end digital work which is always spectacular and always in the service of the story.
So ... Australia has made the world's first digital penguin musical, in which the hero is different to his peers. He is cast out, makes new friends, remains true to himself, sets off to right a wrong, returns vindicated and finds true love. Happy Feet? You bet. And happy audiences, too, taken on thrill rides down glaciers with penguins cavorting on the snow, sliding at speed across the ice, swimming in choreographed formation underwater, fighting off nasty elephant seals, escaping whales and learning that another species is threatening their own.
The film's darker moments add texture and purpose to the story, a couple of messages that are well worth the effort, and yet the film is never burdened by them; the tone remains buoyant and the final resolution carries meaning.
The showbiz references - Norma Jean (Nicole Kidman breathy as Monroe's ghost) as his mum, Memphis (Hugh Jackman channelling Elvis) as his dad - add a human worldly touch, as do the Latino Adelie penguins, whose Ramon (Robin Williams) is a hoot. Williams also voices Lovelace the Guru, whose role is pivotal in Mumbles quest to save his habitat.
The majestic landscapes and the technical skill of the filmmakers - not to mention the fabulous range of songs across multiple genres - combine to make Happy Feet the wondrous film that it is.
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Interviews will be live on December 18, 2006
GEORGE MILLER INTERVIEW
ZAREH NALBANDIAN INTERVIEW
HAPPY FEET (G)
VOICES: Elijah Wood, Brittany Murphy, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Hugo Weaving, Robin Williams
PRODUCER: Bill Miller, George Miller, Doug Mitchell
DIRECTOR: George Miller
SCRIPT: Warren Coleman, John Collee, George Miller, Judy Morris
EDITOR: Christian Gazal
MUSIC: John Powell
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Mark Sexton
RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 26, 2006