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STUDIO: Warner Home Video
RUNNING TIME: 108 Minutes
• Available Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
• Available Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital 5.1 EX), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1 EX), French (Dolby Digital 5.1 EX)
• Two new fully animated sequences: Mumble Meets a Blue Whale, A Happy Feet Moment
• Private dance lesson with Savion Glover
• Two music videos: Gia’s Hit Me Up, Prince’s The Song of the Heart
• Classic cartoon: I Love to Singa
“It’s Footloose gene-spliced with An Inconvenient Truth.”
Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Robin Williams, Elijah Wood, Brittany Murphy
Try to figure out which character pictured here is played by Robin Williams.
Mumble (Elijah Wood) is a penguin born with a birth defect in a world where the penguins mating season is dictated by one’s ‘heartsong’ (the filmmakers are able to tell this portion concisely thanks in part to the success of March of the Penguins, methinks), which is music that can only be reciprocated by one member of the opposite sex (no fags allowed, penguins!). Mumble doesn’t have a ‘heartsong’ and only knows how to express himself through dance, which gets him on the elders shitlist, who believe he is trying to be a subversive element in the penguin community. This separates him from his true love, Gloria (Brittany Murphy) and sends him out in exile where he meets a gang of hispanic penguins led by Ramon (Robin Williams, ugh). Along the way a subplot about decreasing amounts of fish for the penguins to eat comes to the forefront and it’s up to Mumble to go discover the mystery behind the depletion of their sustenance and win the respect of his family and the penguin community to show them that being yourself is much more important than fitting in, or some shit like that.
The 2007 Oscars will go down in history as the year Pixar had the worst movie in the Best Animated category. Monster House was the better adventure story (with more exhilarating set pieces) and Happy Feet was the more thoughtful and interesting of the three, mixing exuberant dance numbers with social commentary.
If the description of the plot from the nutshell seems like a little bit over-stuffed, you’d be right. There’s a whole shitload of different themes and ideas and storylines converging into one motion picture here (it’s like George Miller thought to himself “Wouldn’t it be awesome if Babe and Pig in the City were just one movie?”). This is an intelligent movie, with incisive commentary about groups of fanatics being exclusionary to minorities/those different from them (which makes the Robin Williams characters all the more baffling, more on that in a bit) and the depletion of our natural resources due to human over-consumption. It’s also cool for a film to have its plot laid out over the first act, have it solved in the second act, and then move onto something entirely different in the third. It’s as if Miller is saying “alright, we’re all different from one another, this isn’t new, we’ve got bigger problems to deal with as human beings” which is a pretty advanced move to make in a children’s movie.
However, the movie’s one glaring flaw (that it actually manages to overcome without spoiling the picture or anything so dramatic as that) is in its choosing Robin Williams to voice the characters of Ramon and Lovelace. For a film to be pimping equality and cultural understanding it’s a pretty big misstep to cast Williams to provide ethnic stereotypical voices for the characters. It’s the only really frustrating decision made throughout the movie, actually.
Visually, the film is gorgeous. It opts for realism for the most part with small defining attributes to help the audience discern some of the penguins from the others, this especially being the case for Elijah Wood’s character of Mumble. The action set pieces range from chaotic to thrilling and the usage of music in this picture is really something to applaud. We live in a day and age where good musicals are few and far between, and this is a movie that harkens back to the works of Busby Berkeley with a cast of thousands dancing to their heart’s content as the camera swoops around them. Using the music and dance as a plot device as well as that of an entertainment device is also a smooth move, allowing for a scene such as the one near the end of the picture where the younger penguins are dancing in syncopation with the singing of the elder penguins who are trying to drown out the sound of their tap-dancing, a scene that literally gave me goosebumps.
Also worth noting is Miller’s use of real human beings when they finally are revealed in the picture. It’s a dangerous move to make, introducing elements of reality into an otherwise animated environment, but it has the intended effect of making human beings seem alien and terrifying to the human beings watching the film itself, which is no small feat. And while the ending might seem a little bit to contrived for some people’s taste (a little silly in my opinion, as it’s just a message of hope and insofar as it is such a thing it’s not so different from the Human Project coming through the fog at the end of Children of Men), we live in an age where things like March of the Penguins and Meerkat Manor showcase that human beings don’t give a shit about the world we occupy unless we in some way project human emotions onto them. So, instead of being out of the ordinary, it seemed quite apt.
So while it may not be as compact and entertaining as Monster House, it was certainly deserving of the little gold man it won this past year. Definitely worth checking out for those who missed it during its initial run, as it’s a children’s movie that is trying (if perhaps not entirely succeeding) to be something much more profound than your run-of-the-mill talking animal pictures of the double ought’s.
Less well known than it’s desert-borne relatives, the underwater Graboid (or Aquaboid) nevertheless is beginning to make a name for itself.
The cover art kind of sucks, but so did all of the promotional art for the movie so you can’t say that they had any better options than this. One question, though: why no pimping of the film’s Oscar win? I guess it wouldn’t really bolster the sales all that much considering the target audience for a picture like this, but one would expect a little collar-poppin’ on the part of Warner Bros. for slaying the giant in the animation category. The movie’s transfer and audio are both gorgeous, really showing off the animation’s precision and texture during scenes in which the main characters walk through a blizzard and are confronted by killer whales. It’s definitely a showcase disc if one felt so inclined.
What exists here in terms of extras isn’t exactly worth watching or substantial, but it exists: there’s two fully animated deleted scenes, one entitled “Mumble Meets a Blue Whale” which was done as a tribute to the late Steve Irwin by incorporating his entire voice performance into a scene that was scrapped in favor of giving his voice to another character in the picture, and another entitled “A Happy Feet Moment” in which a baby penguin is inexplicably punted into the ocean. The latter is worth watching solely for it’s ‘Wait, what?’ factor. Also included is a ‘private dance lesson’ with Savion Glover who provided the audio for all of the tap-dancing throughout the movie, which is strictly for kids. Also included are two music videos, Gia’s “Hit Me Up” (unfortunately not a tender tribute to spousal abuse) and Prince’s “The Song of the Heart” (just footage from the movie culled together set to the music) and neither are worth your precious eyesight. The one solid extra is the vintage cartoon short “I Love to Singa” which was included due to its thematic similarities to Happy Feet, and hell, maybe it even inspired the movie a little bit.
8.0 out of 10