Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Movie Review: Happy Feet

Happy Feet, the new animated film from Warner Bros., has been the number one movie in America for three weeks in a row. In a year where a slew of animated features have been released, it has managed to stand out and even fend off the likes of the new Bond. It's a fun and unconventional family film that takes some chances and succeeds much of the time.

The film revolves around a young penguin named Mumble (Elijah Wood). After being exposed to the elements as an egg, Mumble grows up without the ability to sing. Singing is how penguins find their mates as we're shown at the beginning of the film where Mumble's parents, Norma Jean (Nicole Kidman) and Memphis (Hugh Jackman), get together. Instead of being able to sing, Mumble has the ability to dance. He joyfully tap dances when he's happy (hence the title of the movie) but that makes him an outcast among his fellow penguins.

Several things make this animated movie stand out from so many of the other releases this year. First is the way music is used in the film. Similar to Moulin Rouge, contemporary songs are sung and woven into the film. The opening sequence is the best example of how differently this movie approaches music. Several well-known songs are sung on top of and after each other. Other well-known songs are rendered somewhat unrecognizable. These musical numbers vary drastically from the theatrical style of classic Disney musicals and are the highlights of the film.

Another way this movie stands out from other animated films is the story. This film doesn't progress in ways you expect. In the middle of the movie, it suddenly becomes more of an adventure film. After that, the film takes another turn and I guarantee you that you won't see the ending coming. The movie combines a lot of different elements and while it feels a little choppy at times, it's easy to follow.

The animation in this film is very nice. There are some sequences (such as when the male penguins sing together in a group to keep themselves and their eggs warm) that are just gorgeous to look at. The environments are quite realistic, although the character designs are a tad bit too realistic. Motion-capture was used for the dance sequences (Savion Glover did the dancing for Mumble) and it looks good here.

Overall, Happy Feet is a fun animated film that is unlike the rest of the CG animated movies that came out this year. Some critics and parents have complained about some of the content in this film. What I will say is that this movie is rated PG and not G. All PG-rated films contain stuff that may not be suitable for little kids. At the same time, this is a very tame PG-rated animated film. There is no cursing, no death, and it's not nearly as violent as other PG-rated animated films such as The Incredibles and Lilo & Stitch.

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