kythera family kythera family


Culture > Bibliography > Happy Feet. Filmography.

Culture > Bibliography

submitted by Sydney Morning Herald on 01.01.2007

Happy Feet. Filmography.

Happy Feet. Filmography. - Miller George A CG penguin from Happy Feet

A CG penguin from Happy Feet.

Director: George Miller
Genre: Animation
Run Time: 108 minutes
Rated: G
Country: United States
Actors: Voice Cast: Elijah Wood, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Robin Williams, Brittany Murphy, Steve Irwin.
Rating: stars3half

Happy Feet

Sandra Hall, reviewer

December 26, 2006

George Miller's new animated musical turns flightless birds into tapdancing heroes.

It takes a special kind of optimist to stage the life of the emperor penguin as a musical - to recast nature's greatest stoic as a party animal.

Yet that's what Australian director George Miller and the special effects house Animal Logic have done - so successfully that it's going to take some time before I can look at the snowy breast of a penguin without imagining that it contains the tap-tapping heart of a Sammy Davis jnr.

But to backtrack a bit, Miller's penguins do not start out as natural dancers. It takes a rare bird to persuade them of the pleasures of moving their feet to music. His name is Mumble, and his father, Memphis - voiced by Hugh Jackman, sounding as if channelling James Stewart - is very worried when his hatchling emerges from the egg with feet that can't keep still. It just "ain't penguin" and it has to stop.

But Mumble's mother, Norma Jean - breathily voiced by Nicole Kidman, taking her cue from Marilyn Monroe - is more sanguine. If her boy wants to dance, let him. As long as he can sing, everything will be all right, for an emperor penguin's heartsong is his signature.
Without it, he will not attract a mate and his future will be blighted.

So Mumble (Elijah Wood) tries hard to find his voice but when the colony's best teachers fail to coax anything from him but an ear-splitting squawk, he has to give up.

The frozen, monochromatic world of the Antarctic hardly seems the place for a film so reliant on the joys of colour and movement. After all, penguins themselves have trouble distinguishing one black-and-white body from another in the press of birds who come together at feeding and hatching time. That's why they need a song.
But black and white is just part of the palette here.

Miller's team made their own trips to the Antarctic to take the photographs they used as reference for the film's backgrounds, in which the luminous blues of sky, sea and ice are accented with pink and gold to produce symmetry without uniformity.

And it's not hard to tell one penguin from another. Norma Jean wiggles rather than waddles. Memphis stands tall and Mumble, though he grows, fails to lose his fluffy coat and take on the sleek lines of other young penguins. It's as if his inability to sing has turned him into an eternal adolescent, which is pretty tough as he's already fallen for gorgeous Gloria (Brittany Murphy), who can have anyone she wants.

The dancing has been choreographed with the use of motion capture, which means that Mumble's moves are based on those of a human tap dancer. Even so, his own anatomical features - the fact that most of his movements are performed by the neck, flippers and feet - mean that he's never less than penguinly. He's no Gene Kelly, but tap, with its combination of rigidity and rhythm, suits him just fine.

The music is an irresistible melange of old favourites, ranging from Pagliacci to the Beach Boys, whose music enlivens a swooping underwater number, and the soundtrack goes Latin when Mumble, evicted from the colony, takes up with a group of Adelie penguins, who sound as if they've dropped in from South America. Led by Ramon (an unsink-able Robin Williams), they'd swing their hips if they had any and, in their company, Mumble begins to entertain the thought that his urge to dance might be cool.

The need for suspense is not neglected either. Predators abound and there's a breathtaking underwater chase in which Mumble narrowly avoids becoming a leopard seal's breakfast.

The plot takes an environmental tilt towards the end, sustaining a few blows to its credibility during the shift. But by then, Mumble and friends had built up such goodwill that I could probably have gone along if he'd morphed into Al Gore.

Leave a comment