Perhaps in an all too unsubtle move, the MGM/Fox contingent has released The Pebble and the Penguin on the same day as the recently released Happy Feet. The film chronicles the quest of Hubie (Martin Short, Innerspace), a penguin who is trying to win the love of Marina (Annie Golden, Twelve Monkeys) as a mate. But Marina is also eyed by Drake (Tim Curry, Clue), and knows that Hubie must not have her, so he throws Hubie into the ocean. Hubie meets Rocko (Jim Belushi, Return to Me), who helps him stand up to Drake while winning the love of Marina.
Not only is the video release timed to come out with Happy Feet, but the stories are oh so familiar, despite Happy Feet coming out several years later. Marina is voiced by Brittany Murphy in the movie, Hubie is done by Elijah Wood, and Rocko is done by Robin Williams, so at least the creators of both films find people equally grating in the third role.
Having said all of that, the film, which is notable for being directed by Don Bluth, who did The Land Before Time, claims to have been based on the true-life mating rituals of the Adeli penguins. There is a scene at the end which I hesitate to spoil, but it goes without saying that claim is a little bit far-fetched when you see the scene unspool. At 70 minutes, the film is a little bit long in the music department, but apparently Barry Manilow did some contributing to the picture. But since I didn’t hear “Copa Cabana” as one of the songs in the film, I sped through it as quick as I could. As it stands, Happy Feet, while definitely not your usual animated film (which means not up to the Pixar standard) was certainly better than this.
Surprisingly, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack isn’t too shabby. There’s more surround activity that I expected, along with a bit of low end bass. For a non-computer illustrated film, it’s not too shabby.
The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen is quite vibrant. There’s a wide variety of colors, the palette looks good, the picture is clear throughout, all is well on the video side.
Apparently this is a “Family Fun Edition” release, meaning that there’s a second disc dedicated to the extras of the film. Was this completely necessary? Probably not, considering the run time of the feature, but I appreciate the effort. Moving straight ahead to Disc Two, there are five, count ’em, set-top games for the little ankle biter in your family. Some are related to the film, some aren’t, I’m too much of a hard-nosed cynic to check for myself. Moving on, there are two featurettes, one a dated EPK examination of the film itself, with insights from the cast and crew. Second is a look at the music of the film, so be prepared to enjoy the world of Manilow.
You know what The Pebble and the Penguin is? It’s Happy Feet for parents who were too cheap to buy Happy Feet. The audio and video is OK, the extras are fairly scarce, but make your kid happy and get the computer generated penguins instead.