Happy Feet (2006) – movie review

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Movie Review by Vivienne Messenger

(Starring (voices of): Elijah Wood, Robin Williams, Brittany Murphy, Hugh Jackman
Director: George Miller

HAPPY FEET, from legendary Australian filmmaker George Miller who brought us BABE (that gallant pig) and the MAD MAX trilogy (there’s a fourth in development), is a rousing, feel good movie with a twist. It’s a dancing-penguin musical both well written and brilliantly sung set amongst a vast colony of Emperor Penguins in one of the remotest and inhospitable places on Earth – Antarctica.

‘Happy feet’ refers to our hero, a young Emperor Penguin called Mumble (voiced by Elijah Wood – better known as Frodo Baggins in THE LORDS OF THE RINGS trilogy) who’s different. Not only in his outward appearance – he has different markings and piercing blue eyes instead of black – but weirdly has no ‘heartsong’. He can’t sing – period! He has a ‘heart tap’ and is happiest dancing, tap dancing, which makes him an outcast in his colony of singing penguins, each with their own unique voice.

When superstitious leader Noah the Elder (Hugo Weaving) justifies his decision in banishing Mumble because of his odd behaviour, which is having a negative effect on their community and must be responsible for the dwindling fish harvests, Mumble sets forth into unknown territory on his own mission to investigate the cause of the scarce fish stock. He says goodbye to his dad Memphis (Hugh Jackman), mum Norma Jean (Nicole Kidman) and special friend Gloria (Brittany Murphy) to boldly go where no penguin has gone before…

With a slightly longer duration of 108 minutes, the story twist and turns and has a number of scarier sequences from predators Mumble meets on his journey to the sinister discovery of the ‘aliens’ who are taking all the fish – you’ve guessed it – humans! There’s a lot packed into the movie, not least the musical numbers that keep the pulsating beat of the movie very much alive, but also some incredible death defying stunts Mumble dives headlong into on his travels with the Adelie Amigos – a posse of very different Adelie penguins instantly impressed and bowled over by his fancy footwork. It’s Mumble’s life affirming friendship with the Amigos led by Ramon (Robin Williams) that bolsters his courage to enable him to pursue his perilous investigation with such bravado.

All the lead characters are given space to establish themselves and the audience are skilfully swept up in the unfolding drama as Mumble’s adventure carries him across hundreds and hundreds of miles of ocean to the shores of an ‘alien’ world that will ultimately lead to a euphoric climax.

Yes, this movie is emotive and tugs at your heartstrings. It also carries a political message very much in the current news about the declining world fish supply and its negative impact, in this case on native wildlife. But above all HAPPY FEET is a masterly, foot tapping, exhilarating and enchanting movie that will have numerous youngsters on their feet bopping up and down to the beat!

5 out of 6 stars