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KINCHEN AT THE MOVIES: ‘Happy Feet’: This Penguin Can’t Sing, But He Can Dance up a Storm in George Miller’s Animated Feature

Posted by kinchendavid on November 19, 2006

By David M. Kinchen
Editor, Huntington News Network

Hinton, WV — I knew that “Happy Feet” was directed by noted Australian director George Miller (“Mad Max,” “The Aviator,” “Babe,” “The Witches of Eastwick,” “The Road Warrior,” “The Twilight Zone,” etc., etc.). Miller is as versatile as another of my favorite directors, Joel Schumacher (“Falling Down,” “The Lost Boys,” “Phone Booth,” “Batman & Robin,” “The Phantom of the Opera”).

There are several Aussie actors voicing the penguins and other characters in the flick: Nicole Kidman (Norma Jean, the mother of Mumble, voiced by “Lord of the Rings” star Elijah Wood); Hugh Jackman (Memphis, Mumble’s dad); Hugo Weaving, Anthony LaPaglia (voicing the boss skua, an Antarctic bird of prey) and the late “crocodile hunter” Steve Irwin. One of the stars of the flick is of course Robin Williams, who voices – among other penguins – Lovelace, a master evangelist.

Written by Warren Coleman, John Collee, George Miller and Judy Morris, the animated 87-minute feature tells the story of odd-penguin-out Mumble, who can’t sing, but he can tap dance like no other penguin. Emperor penguins in this movie are conformists to a fault, so Mumble’s skills aren’t appreciated by the elders.

Penguins find their mates by singing, so tone-deaf Mumble appears to be out of luck in that department – until he meets Gloria (Brittany Murphy) who falls for the bird who wants to broaden the horizons of his fellow penguins with a little – hey, even a lot – of dancing.

“Happy Feet” features music by John Powell and Jama-Ski, along with a number of pop hits covered by the voicing actors.

Telling too much of the plot would spoil the movie for potential viewers. Suffice it to say, I recommend this nuanced, often dark look at penguins and the “aliens” (humans) who are endangering their habitat. There’s a strong environmental message in the movie, but the exuberance of Mumble, Gloria, Lovelace and all the rest make this PG-rated film suitable for the entire family as pure entertainment. An vital subtext in the movie, of course, is the importance of recognizing and welcoming different abilities.

Coming  in the wake of last year’s surprise hit, “The March of the Penguins,” “Happy Feet” answers the question: Another penguin movie? With a “yes, but, this is not just another penguin movie.” It’s a George Miller penguin movie!

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