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Brilliant Happy Feet

Published November 16, 2006 in Movie Reviews
By Fred Topel | Image property of Warner Bros.
Happy Feet Poster Happy Feet
I can actually say this with no sense of cliché. Happy Feet will leave your kids toe tapping all the way home. I’ve seen it firsthand. They actually leave the theater bouncing off the walls. Good luck putting them to sleep at bedtime.

Movie Review : Happy Feet


Happy Feet is so many things, I wasn’t sure where it was all going. I may have spent more than 2/3 confused but man, when it all comes together, it’s one of the most brilliant pieces of story construction in modern cinema. Probably George Miller’s most powerful statement since the Mad Max films.

The emperor penguins mate by song, so when little Mumbles (Elijah Wood) is born with tap dancing abilities instead, he becomes a social outcast. The religious leaders believe his difference offends the gods who punish them by taking away their food supply. On his own, Mumbles meets birds who rant about aliens, Latino penguins who take him to their guru and a buried stash of relic machines that may prove to be the key to the dwindling food supply.



See, this is pretty wild stuff. I thought the first alien riff was just a non sequitur. When they brought it back and started with the heavy machinery, it felt gimmicky. But the payoff pulls everything together and makes a profound statement about unscientific faith and ineffective politics. And it’s the biggest surprise ending in years.

Happy Feet is so lively it’s like an animated party. The dance numbers are like Stomp on ice. The music is wonderful, opening with different popular choruses calling and responding to each other, and progressing through gracefully choreographed showstoppers. These penguins even waddle with grace.

It’s full of action with plenty of swimming and sliding. The colors are vibrant, with red suns, blue storms and yellow rings around the penguins. This is no black and white world.

But that stuff just makes it one of the better animated movies of the year, hardly a distinction now that there’s about a dozen. What sets Happy Feet apart is that it’s the existential animated movie. At least I think it is. I never understood existentialism in high school. It’s about questioning the nature of existence, right? Yeah, that’s what they do here.


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Sources: Image property of Warner Bros.
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