Elijah Wood, Brittany Murphy, Robin Williams, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Hugo Weaving, Lombardo Boyar, Johnny A. Sanchez
Warren Coleman, John Collee, George Miller, Judy Morris
WARNING: May Cause Toe-Tapping.
In the great nation of Emperor Penguins, deep in Antarctica, you're nobody unless you can sing - which is unfortunate for Mumble (Elijah Wood), who is the worst singer in the world. He is born dancing to his own tune ... tap dancing. As fate would have it, his one friend, Gloria (Brittany Murphy), happens to be the best singer around. Mumble and Gloria have a connection from the moment they hatch, but she struggles with his strange "hippity-hoppity" ways. Away from home for the first time, Mumble meets a posse of decidedly un-Emperor-like penguins - the Adelie Amigos. Led by Ramon (Robin Williams), the Adelies instantly embrace Mumble's cool dance moves and invite him to party with them. In Adelie Land, Mumble seeks the counsel of Lovelace the Guru (also voiced by Robin Williams), a crazy-feathered Rockhopper penguin who will answer any of life's questions for the price of a pebble. Together with Lovelace and the Amigos, Mumble sets out across vast landscapes and, after some epic encounters, proves that by being true to yourself, you can make all the difference in the world.
$41.533 million on 3804 screens.
English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX
French Dolby Digital 5.1 EX
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 EX
Runtime: 108 min.
Release Date: 3/27/2007
• “Mumble Meets a Blue Whale” Short
• “A Happy Feet Moment” Short
• “Dance Like a Penguin: Stomp to the Beat” Featurette
• Music Videos
• “I Love to Singa” Classic Cartoon
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Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.
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Happy Feet (2006)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 13, 2007)
What hath March of the Penguins wrought? The 2005 documentary turned into a surprise hit and doomed us to one penguin-related project after another. To be fair, 2006’s animated Happy Feet was in production before March emerged as a success, so I can’t call it a rip-off. However, its success – with $194 million in US box office and an Oscar as Best Animated Feature – means we’re likely to get more penguin movies and whatnot for years to come.
Feet introduces us to baby penguin Mumble (voiced by EG Daily). Immediately following birth, he shows some unusual tendencies, as he loves to dance right out of the shell. His dad Memphis (Hugh Jackman) hopes the boy will grow out of it, but he continues to be tapping fool.
The young penguins learn that they need to develop their “heart songs” so they can eventually attract a mate. However, Mumble displays atrocious vocal “talents”, a fact that sends his parents to pursue various methods to change this. Nothing works, however; when he wants to express his inner feelings, he can’t help but dance.
Matters don’t improve as Mumble becomes an adult (Elijah Wood) but remains an outcast. He longs for Gloria (Brittany Murphy), and she digs him too, but his status on the outskirts of society keeps them apart. Eventually Mumble accidentally slips away and meets up with some smaller, spicier penguins. He hangs out with Ramon (Robin Williams) and his pals, and they lead him to guru Lovelace (Williams) when he wants answers to some questions.
This doesn’t help, and with mating season on the horizon, Mumble starts to feel lonely again. However, Ramon decides to assist. The movie follows Mumble’s attempts to find his mate and be happy along with various societal complications and an eventual quest to feed his clan.
Somehow Feet beat out the fine Cars and the creative Monster House for the Best Animated Feature Oscar. How did this occur? I have no idea. Feet offers some entertainment, but it’s neither as rich or involving as either of its competitors.
Most of the movie’s problems relate to its thinness. There’s not much story at work here, especially since the flick comes across as a basic riff on Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and The Wizard of Oz. Sometimes I really started to wonder if the flick featured any plot at all. We end up with a melange of plot bits but never wind up with a real narrative. It throws out story elements without much cohesion, as the film never seems very sure where it wants to go.
Actually, that’s not wholly true, as I know what Feet wants to do: send us a blunt ecological method. Mumble starts out with a standard quest to find himself, but he eventually tries to locate food to help his fellow penguins. That’s where the movie begins to turn preachy – and radically illogical. I won’t tell what happens on Mumble’s quest, but I can say the manner in which the film’s wheels turn makes no sense at all. The story wants to deliver its message at any cost – who cares if it works in a narrative sense?
The incoherence of the story becomes a real distraction, especially since Feet tosses in so many filler moments. We get all sorts of shots with swimming, dancing, singing and some action bits. Do these really connect with the barely-existent narrative? No, not to a significant degree. The movie features them in an attempt to hide the lack of plot rather than to embellish the story. Feet hopes to dazzle us with these bits so we won’t notice the thin nature of the tale.
To some degree, this works. The movie certainly looks great. It goes for a photo-real appearance much of the time but not to a distracting degree. The characters look cartoony enough to fit with the goofy antics, and they blend fine with the lush settings. Feet definitely offers appealing visuals.
Too bad those elements and the high-powered cast can’t do much with the non-existent story. Speaking of the actors, I have to rail against the presence of Robin Williams. Don’t take this as a criticism of his work in the movie; he’s just fine in his dual roles. However, I’m just really sick of hearing him in animated flicks. He’s become a crutch of sort for filmmakers, and he has begun to act as a distraction.
That’s especially true here since Williams plays two roles and narrates. We hear so much of him that we find it tough to focus on the action. He’s everywhere, and unnecessarily so. Aren’t there other actors who can play these predictable roles?
I don’t want to paint Happy Feet as an unpleasant experience. The movie manages to keep us reasonably entertained across its 108 minutes; the various antics don’t follow much logic, but they can amuse to a mild degree. However, the incoherence and lack of depth act as drawbacks in the long run. This is a poorly developed flick.
The DVD Grades: Picture A/ Audio B+/ Bonus D+
Happy Feet appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Across the board, the movie looked great.
No issues with sharpness emerged. The movie always looked accurate and well-defined, even in wider shots. I noticed no jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement appeared absent. The picture came totally free from source defects, as it consistently looked clean.
Colors seemed very good as well. The movie featured palette that looked appropriately concise and distinctive. Given the icy climes, the movie didn’t boast a broad palette, but it executed the tones well. Blacks were deep and rich, while shadows seemed smooth and clear. I expected a fine transfer and found it here.
As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Happy Feet, it also worked well. The movie presented a fairly engaging soundfield. Not surprisingly, its best moments related to the mix of action scenes like those with predators. These helped open up the spectrum pretty nicely. Otherwise, we got good stereo impressions from the music along with solid environmental material. The latter reverberated in the rear speakers to positive effect.
No problems with audio quality occurred. Speech was always concise and natural, and I noticed no edginess or other concerns. Music seemed bright and lively. Effects showed good distinctiveness, and they offered nice low-end when appropriate. The track wasn’t quite immersive enough to merit an “A”-level grade, but it was very pleasing nonetheless.
Since Happy Feet did so well at the box office, it comes as a surprise the DVD presents only a smattering of extras. We find two new animated shorts. “Mumble Meets a Blue Whale” goes for three minutes, 18 seconds, while “A Happy Feet Moment” fills 28 seconds. “Moment” is more like something from a gag reel than an actual cartoon; it’s cute but very insubstantial.
As for “Whale”, it comes with an introduction from director George Miller in which he talks about the late Steve Irwin and his work on the film. This leads to a clip with Irwin’s voice work. This is really a deleted scene, not a separate short. That makes it worth a look, though it doesn’t provide a terribly interesting clip.
Next comes an instructional featurette. Dance Like a Penguin: Stomp to the Beat runs five minutes, 20 seconds and gives us a lesson from dancer/co-choreographer Savion Glover. He provides a little tutorial for the kiddies. It’s another cute component that won’t do much for anyone over the age of 10.
Two clips appear under the Music Videos banner. We get “Hit Me Up” from Gia Farrell and Prince’s “The Song of the Heart”. “Hit” is a forgettable track that reminds me too much of that dreadful “Mambo No. 5” from a few years ago. The video is uninspired as well; it just features dancing and movie clips. Gia’s pretty cute, I must admit.
As for “Heart”, it won’t go down as the Purple One’s finest moment. However, it’s a decent little tune, though the video is completely bland. It just shows a melange of movie snippets; Prince fails to make an appearance.
In addition to the film’s trailer, we get a classic short called “I Love to Singa”. The 1936 cartoon features an owl who just wants to croon some jazz despite his dad’s hatred of the genre. It’s a fun clip.
The DVD opens with some ads. We find previews for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Fred Claus, Deep Sea 3-D, Nancy Drew and The Nativity Story.
Dancing penguins lead to environmental change? Happy Feet may be the most nonsensical tale I’ve seen in a long time. It crams in too many different elements to make sense and never coalesces into a satisfying program. The DVD offers excellent visuals and very good audio but lacks substantial extras. The movie’s many fans will be happy with this release, but I can’t recommend this borderline incoherent animated adventure.
Viewer Film Ratings: 3.2272 Stars
| Number of Votes: 22