Directed by: George Miller
Written by:Warren Coleman, John Collee, George Miller, Judy Morris
Starring: Elijah Wood, Brittany Murphy, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Hugo Weaving, Robin Williams
Released: December 26, 2006
Grade: B+

Every year, thousands of penguins go through a very unusual mating ritual.  Once the egg has been laid, the father keeps it between his legs whilst the mother goes on a long march in search of food.  When the female returns, she can find her mate amongst the masses by making a unique “squawking” sound.  It’s hard to believe but yes, each penguin couple makes their own distinctive noise.  Those that saw the Academy Award winning documentary March Of The Penguins (released back in March) will probably know this already.

This fact is the basis for writer-director George Miller’s new animated flick, Happy Feet.  In the film, the fun-loving penguins attract each other by signing songs.  You’ll hear the cast sing classics from artists such as The Beach Boys, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and Kiss.  It undoubtedly features one of the biggest movie soundtracks of the year.

Unfortunately for a young penguin named Mumble (voiced by Elijah Wood) he cannot sing.  His voice sends shivers down the spine of anyone within earshot.  The one thing he does know how to do is tap dance.  Dancing is a new concept the army of penguins and Mumble’s strange foot movements only further alienate him from his family and friends.

After becoming lost in the arctic ice, Mumble meets a posse of new penguins led by Ramon (voiced by Robin Williams).  They come from a different penguin community and have strange Latino accents.  They think Mumble’s dance moves are “so accidentally cool” and they welcome him into their group.

Whilst telling us to appreciate each other’s differences, the film also has an environmental message.  The survival of the penguins is in jeopardy given the lack of fish (their food source) in the nearby ocean.  Mumble suspects that the large creatures in their machines, which they call the “aliens”, have been taken them.  He goes on a dangerous journey to learn the truth and to prove to the others that he is right.

As I say every week, I am tiring quickly of animated films with talking animals.  There have been so many of late and I think they tread over the same material.  It does feel a little familiar but there’s still a lot to like about Happy Feet.  Robin Williams is particularly funny.  Both adults and children will get a kick out of his character’s bold personality.  The quality of animation is also excellent.

The ending is a little strange.  It’s very abrupt and I’m not sure whether the introduction of the human element fits in with the context of the film.  Then again, I’m not a writer and the producers of the film shouldn’t be complaining given its stellar performance at the international box-office.  It’s the favourite to win the best animated film Oscar at the upcoming Academy Awards.

As my last review for the 2006 year, I can only hope for a little more originality in next year’s crop of animated features.