Happy Feet, the 2007 Oscar winner for Best Animated Film, has finally tapped onto DVD. Full of music, gorgeous animation, and a plethora of voice talent, this movie seems to have it all. However, it falls short of becoming a true animated masterpiece.
So what’s the story? 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.
The above synopsis does a good job in setting up the movie. The big problem? The movie takes too much times to set itself up, moving at a glacial pace. The movie spends too much time establishing that, yes, Mumble is different from the others. And that yes, all penguins need to know how to sing to find their true love. And yes, Mumble and Gloria have a loving bond that will carry the movie. The movie sets all of this up, and then doesn’t go anywhere with it. They all do pay off eventually, but the pace is slow and . . . kind of boring.
The music, however, is quite excellent. The music starts immediately and never stops. In fact, I was quite surprised to see just how “musical” this movie was. Within minutes of the movie’s opening, we’ve already heard about five songs, most of which blend into the next for a continuous melody until the first actual scene of dialogue. And speaking of dialogue, compared to all the singing, there’s not that much. And some of the aforementioned dialogue is even sung. It just never ends, as there’s pretty much a song in every scene, something that also gets tiring after awhile. And, I couldn’t have been the only one here, but it was weird to hear a very sexual Prince song used within the opening minutes. It was just . . . odd.
On top of the plot mentioned in the synopsis, the movie also throws in messages of environmental damage and global warming. In fact, it drives one of the film’s plots. The fish are disappearing, making it harder and harder for the Emperor Penguins to feed during their annual trip to the breeding ground. It’s not too subtle, but the kids probably won’t think twice about it.
The characters are all well defined, sometimes exhaustingly so. The voice actors do their best with the roles given, though Nicole Kidman’s portrayal of Mumble’s mother is annoying. She tries for this Marilyn Monroe-type portrayal which ends up more grating than graceful. Robin Williams delivers his usual wacky-role, twice no-less, but it adds nothing special to the movie. An extra laugh or two, but no real impact. In fact, the plot seems to focus more on the characters themselves then trying to produce an actual story. Yes, there is a story, but it’s so thin and mixed that the characters overwhelm the movie. Usually, a character-focused movie is a good thing, but here it seems to jumble the story. Perhaps that explains the sometimes glacial pace of the movie.
Overall, kids will love this movie. I can see why it’s made nearly $200 million dollars at the domestic box office. It’s full of music, lovable characters, and has some gorgeous animation. I understand I’m not the target demographic for the movie which could explain why I find myself underwhelmed by Happy Feet. We’ve had some very strong animated films over the past few years, and this one just did not grab me like the others. Kids will love it, but based on the overwhelming positive response this movie received last year, I was hoping for a little bit more.
As for the audio and video, the movie looks gorgeous. The opening scenes look amazing. The more nature-focused scenes, such as a long shot of the breeding ground or watching glaciers collapse, look absolutely spellbinding. Even the penguins look ridiculously detailed. The sound is loud and vibrant. Each song comes through loud and clear, something the kids will no doubt enjoy.
But what about extras materials? Well, there’s a mix of more child-focused content and behind the scenes content. There’s a nice amount of extra features which should entertain both children and fans of the film. Extras include:
-Two new fully animated sequences, “Mumble Meets a Blue Whale” and “A Happy Feet Moment”
-A Private Dance Lession with Savion Glover entitled “Dance like a Penguin: Stomp to the Beat”
-Learn some Spanish from the men who voiced the Amigos in “Spanish Lesson”
-See how the movie creators capture motion with “Creating the Tap”
-A 13 minute making of special “Behind the Scenes of Happy Feet”, three music videos, the classic Cartoon “I Love to Singa,” and the theatrical trailer are also included.
With some passable extras, stunning audio and video, and a movie that kids will love, parents will undoubtedly run out to pick up this DVD when it hits shelves. And they should, too. Kids will adore the music, as will most adults. I have to admit that I found myself humming along to most of the songs, no matter how weird it was to watch Penguins sing Price tunes. Perhaps it’s because I just watched March of the Penguins mere days before watching this movie. Personally, I found the movie to be a bit slow and boring, but kids should find the never-ending music and cute penguins adorable enough to keep their interest.
Happy Feet will be available on DVD for $28.98 SRP in both widescreen and full frame formats. The HD DVD Combo will be available at $39.99 SRP and on Blu-ray Disc for $34.99 SRP. Happy Feet arrives on shelves March 27th, 2006.