(2006) dir. George Miller
viewed: 11/26/06 at AMC Loews Metreon, SF, CA
When I had caught the trailer for this movie, I had thought to myself that there was no way in hell that I would go see this. Dancing penguins for chrissakes.
Well, as it works out, I did end up going to see it and the reason that I decided that it might be worthwhile was when I had seen that it was directed by George Miller, the Australian director of all three Mad Max films and Babe: Pig in the City (1998), which was a pretty dark and strange children’s film.
Well, two minutes into this one, I was grieving for the next two hours of my life, as the film opens with penguins serenading each other in some riffed melody of Elvis Presley and Prince’s “Kiss” and numerous other interludes. A chorus of dancing, musical penguins. It was frightening in a way that those Coca Cola Christmas commercials with the polar bears are.
Clearly piggy-backing off Luc Jacquet’ documentary about emperor penguins in Antartica, March of the Penguins (2005), I have to say that I am not 100% sure where this film finally found its footing (ugh, pun not intended). I think it happened when the narrative elements kicked in and the few moments of scary bits: a leopard seal and a couple orcas try to eat our photo-realistic penguin pals, voiced by people like Elijah Wood, Robin Williams, and Nicole Kidman. Is this voice “talent” really necessary? Can Robin Williams be stopped from acting all together?
Happy Feet is definitely a darker film somehow than most other children’s animated films and its tone spends less time cracking wise and tossing in throwaway gags to keep the adults “amused”. And the animation is fairly striking at times, though the photo-realistic style versus the traditional narrative anyways doesn’t necessarily amount to a match made in heaven. There is plenty of sickening pap and schmaltz. But there is something halfway interesting.
Certainly not Miller’s best (maybe his worst) and certainly not the best animated film this year, nor the worst. But dancing penguins…never, never again.