Previous to receiving this copy of Happy Feet for review, I have wanted to check it out but never got the chance; the animation appears to look spectacular and the cast of voice actors seems really impressive. The list includes one of my favorite actors Hugh Jackman, Elijah Wood, Brittany Murphy, Robin Williams, Hugo Weaving, Nicole Kidman, and more. So on paper Happy Feet sounds like a winner, how does it turn out?
Happy Feet revolves around the lives of a colony of emperor penguins on…Antarctica, and as I’m sure some of you know compliments of Planet Earth or March of the Penguins that in order to find a mate emperor penguins sing to each other – in Happy Feet they call this a “Heartsong.” Norma Jean (Nicole Kidman) sings to Memphis (Hugh Jackman) who in turn sings to her and the two identify each other as soul mates. They mate and Norma Jean along with the rest of the females take off to get food while Memphis and the males stay and guards the eggs, but Memphis drops his and normally the harsh winter isn’t so forgiving of a dropped egg in the sub zero temperatures, but the baby penguin survives and out hatches Mumble (Elijah Wood). As time goes on it becomes realized that unlike every other penguin Mumble’s can’t sing, therefore has no “Heartsong.” Instead he is blessed with an outstanding ability to tap dance, which ultimately gets him branded as a freak amongst the emperor penguins. As Mumbles grows older he fails to garner a singing voice, and it unable to attract the penguin of his dreams, Gloria (Brittany Murphy). Then through a series of unfortunate events Mumble is swept into the sea and lands up within a new colony of fun loving penguins who actually adore his tap dancing abilities. Through the adventures with his new penguin buddies, Mumble discovers humans who he refers to as aliens, caught up in the hype he sets out for home to tell the colony of his findings, where he must prove himself to not only his family, but also the colony and his crush Gloria.
The thing about Happy Feet is its a little dry. When I was a kid I remember really hating movies with singing in it, so I wonder in a movie which is made for children why is half of it singing? So obviously I didn’t like that about the movie, in fact the countless songs were really boring, but the constant toe taping from Mumble was pretty humorous at times and was the only thing keeping me from fast forwarding these scenes. A movie like this is really hard for me to analyze because I’m split down the middle on it. I enjoyed the story, I enjoyed the voice acting, and the animation was nothing short of stunning especially on HD DVD. I even had quite a few laughs, but I found it really hard to get past the countless song and dance sequences. Ultimately I enjoyed the movie for what it was, just a silly animated film cashing in the on societies recent fascination with penguins. With that being said if you are a fan of animated movies chances are you will like this one just be prepared for a whole load of songs, but the movie itself is funny and has a good story, it could potentially be fun for the whole family, or a snoozer just depends on how much songs you can tolerate.
Presented in a 1080p 2.40:1 aspect ratio and encoded in VC-1, Happy Feat comes to HD DVD with spectacular results. I have to say that hands down this is among, if not the number one looking animated films I have seen on HD DVD. As you would expect from a CGI film the print was in absolute perfect condition with no grain, scratches or compression artifacts seen through the entire 108 minute duration. The colors were spectacular, they were used amazingly, and every color was perfectly rendered with no bleeding or over saturation. What was equally impressive was the detail of not only the snowy environments, but especially of the animals which included fuzzy penguins in which you could see every single hair on their body, birds where every feather was apparent, but also brilliant close up shots of elephants seals where details were among the most crisp I have ever seen. Movies like this are a selling point on the future of high definition, being a combo disc I couldn’t help but compare to the SD version, the difference was uncanny a true testament to the visual power of HD DVD, I was truly blown away. Whether you’re a fan of the film or you just enjoy great looking animation this transfer will surely please even the most skeptical of you.
Warner has included a Dolby Digital Plus audio track and the always impressive TrueHD track with the release of Happy Feet, which hands down gives the HD DVD version an edge over the Blu-ray release in the audio department, as in the TrueHD track sounds far superior to the included Plus track. Although I wasn’t a fan of the frequent songs, the quality of sound coming from my speakers was just amazing – I could hear the clip pity claps of Mumble’s dancing coming through nicely on all channels. On the note of the excessive singing, every time the dialogue blended with it there were absolutely no balancing issues, which I found surprisingly enjoyable. I have to say having such a nice sound audio track immersed me into this movie far more than the movie itself would have allowed. But the scenes in which I enjoyed most on an audio level were the several chase sequences that used all channels very efficiently and effectively. More specifically was a scene in which a leopard seal chases Mumble around, it sounded great making good use of my subwoofer which in turn built the suspense very well. There were also more subtle effects that I enjoyed like the background noises of birds, or waves clashing the icy shores, but above all I love the crunching of the snow that reminded me of cold winter nights with blowing wind coming through the rear channels effectively. By far this was one of the most impressive tracks found on an animated title to date.
The features department may be the weakest aspect of the disc, but its good enough for me, but might leave fans wanting more.
- Additional Scenes: Mumble Meets a Blue Whale and A Happy Feet Moment – Two additional scenes, one in which includes a scene in which the late Steve Irwin voices an albatross and a short scene in which Memphis hack sacs a young Mumble.
- Dance like a Penguin: Stomp to the Beat – Savion Glover (responsible for the motion capture of the dancing sequences) gives us some tips on how to dance and explains the different ways to express yourself through dance. He even does a nice little dance with a baby Mumble.
- Classic Cartoon: I Love to Singa – An 8 minute classic WB cartoon, might be a fit of nostalgia for some; otherwise it’s still an enjoyable animated short.
- Two Awesome Music Videos: Gia’s Hit Me Up and Prince’s The Song of the Heart – Self explanatory, two music videos of the songs by Gia and Prince.
- Theatrical Trailer
The animation is extremely good looking, the story is actually very entertaining, and this is a fun little movie with the problem of to much song and dance sequences. But I can get past those and really enjoy this cool movie about an outcast penguin, what makes it more enjoyable is how damn amazing it looks on HD DVD. It sounds superb as well and although there aren’t a whole load of features they are rather enjoyable making Happy Feet a must have for fans of the movie, although if you haven’t yet seen it I would exercise some caution first, this movie isn’t for everyone so give it a rent first.
Special Features List
- Additional Scenes: Mumble Meets a Blue Whale and A Happy Feet Moment
- Dance like a Penguin: Stomp to the Beat
- Classic Cartoon: I Love to Singa
- Two Awesome Music Videos
- Theatrical Trailer