This winner of the Oscar for best animated feature of 2006 is one fantastic movie.
Happy Feet is the story of Mumble, a teenager who – thanks to his daddy dropping him early on in life – is mildly physically challenged. You see, Mumble can’t sing like other Americans – he can only dance. As a result, he has never fit in with his people. When he accidentally crosses the border into Mexico, his disability and greater height over the small, energetic Mexicans earn him a sort of respect. With his newfoun… friends, the teen heads back to the U.S. to trick the girl he loves into believing he’s no longer challenged, Cyrano De Bergerac-style. While she admits she’d be happy if it were true, she quickly exposes his lie. Fortunately, Mumble owns up to it and goes back to being himself, with gusto.
While the girl and many others in the community begin to see that Mumble really is special, the American leaders soon worry that embracing his disability will offend God and cause the drought they’re experiencing to continue. The leaders order Mumble and his unwanted “foreign friends” to leave. Mumble, who still cares about his people even though they disdain him, vows to find out why there’s a drought and stop it. Only then, he believes, will his people accept him.
Wait, you thought this movie was about cute, animated penguins? Sure, that’s the faï¿½ade the liberal, tree-hugging filmmakers want you to see, but you have to ignore the adorable veneer and see the socio-enviro-political commentary beneath.
After attacking bigotry and prejudice, Happy Feet becomes a film about the dangers of environmental irresponsibility. We learn that the penguins have no food because heartless humans are over-fishing, without a care for the consequences. Only when little Mumble infiltrates a zoo to dance for them do the humans realize the species they’re harming is not a bunch of flightless birds, but a troupe of cute, dancing penguins. They put a tracking tag on Mumble, and follow him back home to the Antarctic. Mumble, who’s smart enough to know it was his dancing disability that got through to people, quickly convinces all of his people to dance for the greedy humans in hopes of convincing them to stop taking all of the food.
Excuse me while I remove my tongue from my cheek. Ah, that’s better. Happy Feet is the most fun viewing experience you’ll have all year. With incredible animation, superb voice acting and music that’ll make you want to get up and dance, this animated successor to the hit documentary March of the Penguins has something for the whole family. You’ll laugh out loud throughout, you’ll cheer for the underdog and you’ll melt in a chorus of “awws” at the adorable baby penguins.
So Happy Feet is big fun for all. How’s the DVD?
Happy Feet (widescreen edition) is presented on a single disc, in 2.40:1 widescreen format. Wow, does it look gorgeous! I honestly lost count of how many times I was impressed by the incredible visuals and the picture quality. From fine details and rich colours to pleasing contrast and sweeping environments, this film is truly eye candy. Full marks.
English audio is Dolby Digital 5.1 EX, and it sounds just about as good as the movie looks. Happy Feet is chock full of music and effects, and it’s all perfectly balanced with the dialogue and quieter moments. From upbeat tunes to awesome environmental effects like ice avalanches and frenzied predator-prey underwater chases, there’s a lot going on to create this satisfying aural experience.
5.1 audio is also available in Spanish and French, while subtitles are offered in English, French and Spanish.
Happy Feet stumbles a bit in the bonus material department. There are a handful of features, but certainly not enough to assuage any guesses about an upcoming double dip release. Here’s what we get:
- Mumble Meets a Blue Whale: the late Steve Irwin has a cameo in Happy Feet as an elephant seal, but he originally recorded a vocal performance as an albatross in a scene that didn’t make the final film. In light of his passing, the filmmakers decided to finish that scene, and it’s presented here for our viewing pleasure.
- A Happy Feet Moment: this is just a quick animated gag involved a penguin dribbling a baby penguin like a soccer ball.
- I Love to Singa: an eight-minute classic cartoon short, about a young owl that sings jazz despite the scorn from his family members, who all love classical music. It’s based on the same theme as Happy Feet, and it’s certainly an amusing short.
- Dance Like a Penguin: Move to the Beat: in this kid-friendly feature, choreographer Savion Glover teaches viewers some tap-dance basics, with a little help from Mumble.
- Gia’s Hit Me Up and Prince’s The Song of the Heart: two music videos, with the first being a “real” video, while the Prince number is set to a montage of the movie, making it the definite highlight of the two.
- Theatrical trailer and DVD-ROM features: the trailer speaks for itself. The DVD-ROM stuff may appeal to computer-savvy kids, but it won’t make up for the lack of other special features.
Happy Feet is a ton of fun, and thanks to this disc’s excellent video and audio presentations, it’s also a true feast for the eyes and ears. Too bad there aren’t enough special features, though. Just a guess, but watch for a double-dip two-disc release come the 2007 holiday season.
Special Features List
- Mumble Meets a Blue Whale
- A Happy Feet Moment
- I Love to Singa
- Dance Like a Penguin: Move to the Beat
- Music videos
- Theatrical trailer
- DVD-ROM content