Anthony's Film Review

Happy Feet (2006)

Though promising in its concept, the majority of the film did not fully capture my interest...

I have to admit. Happy Feet looked interesting before I saw it. I expected to see lovable animals with human qualities, plenty of humor, a touching universal message, and just plain old fun for the whole family. After all, the movie centers on a penguin named Mumble (Elijah Wood) who cannot sing like all of the other penguins but has the gift of tap dancing. It supposedly puts Mumble on an unforgettable adventure that ultimately teaches everyone something. Wouldn't you want these same things in an animated film?

Let me first get this out of the way. Happy Feet is not entirely a bad movie. It just falls short of the level of quality that deserves a recommendation to see it. I did like the animation and how everything looked on the screen. I enjoyed the last fifteen minutes of the movie because the underlying messages, though somewhat predictable, are presented in a way that I had not originally expected. I even found the penguin culture in this movie somewhat interesting, allowing me to sort of see it with an anthropologist's eye.

So what did I not like about Happy Feet? I'll start with the one thing that really stood out: cultural stereotypes. If there's one thing that could ruin an animated film, it's the injection of human cultural stereotypes into nonhuman characters. You watch an animated film to explore another world unlike our own, not a world that is too similar to ours. In Happy Feet, the characters besides Mumble who have the most screen time are a group of Latin-American penguins, including a womanizing penguin named Lovelace (Robin Williams). For me, it wasn't the kind of thing I wanted to see in a movie set in Antarctica.

Additionally, I found the plot only somewhat interesting. It begins with Mumble showing how painful it is to hear him sing, very much like a typical audition for American Idol. He then explores the uncharted regions and meet the foreign penguins. Then there is talk about fish disappearing from the sea, which Mumble sets out to investigate. The connection among these three parts is not too firm. The first and third elements do connect, but the second does not seem essential. Plus, I thought there were a few too many scenes involving travel across snow and ice.

For a while, I could not decide what my rating for Happy Feet would be. Is it a marginally positive 6 out of 10 stars or a marginally negative 5 out of 10 stars? It's not an easy call to make. In the end, I've settled for the 5/10 rating, because I liked the ending enough but not without sitting through an often dull middle portion. Happy Feet would do better if it could manage to put a happy smile on my face.

Anthony's Rating:

For more information about Happy Feet, visit the Internet Movie Database.


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