Reviewed by: Sheri McMurray
Penguin coloring page: Printable version
Should Christians be concerned about the environment? Answer
What is man’s responsibility to the environment? Answer
How might rain forest destruction affect our weather? Answer
Hypocrisy in the Church—“I would never be a Christian; they’re a bunch of hypocrites.”
About dancing in the Bible
|Featuring||Elijah Wood, Brittany Murphy, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Hugo Weaving, Robin Williams, Johnny A. Sanchez, Carlos Alazraqui, Lombardo Boyar, Jeff Garcia, Steve Irwin, Nicholas McKay, Tiriel Mora, Fat Joe, Magda Szubanski, Miriam Margolyes|
|Director||George Miller, Judy Morris, Warren Coleman|
|Producer||Bruce Berman, Graham Burke, Zareh Nalbandian|
Sequel: “Happy Feet Two” (2011)
If you paid attention while watching last year’s “The March Of The Penguins,” there is no escaping the parallels or the absolute brilliance of “Happy Feet”’s CGI animators’ attention to detail, especially in the sweeping longshots of the Antarctic vistas, making us wonder “is it real or is it CGI?”
“Happy Feet” is basically a musical with a rather strong environmental message. It is also the story of a quest to find a place in this world, of love and forgiveness, of friends who hold you up and try not to let you down, of sacrifice, courage and fun.
Narrator, Robin Williams (doing his best “Morgan Freeman” from “War of The Worlds”) takes us step-by-step (pun intended) from the penguin’s enraptured love dance of summer through the harsh cold of the Antarctic winter and on out into the human world of over-harvesting arctic fish for man’s consumption, noting just how that effects the population of animals who’s survival depends on this source of food, and back to the polar “summer of love” song (and dance). A grand scope, a little long in the middle, but “Happy Feet” provides loads of lush audio and visuals.
Vivacious penguin Norma Jean (the voice of Nicole Kidman, doing a breathy Marilyn Monroe), complete with Marilyn’s beauty mark, sings her way through the male population of Emperor penguins, sifting through each male song, searching for the mate of her dreams. Out of the crowd of beaus swaggers Memphis (Hugh Jackman sounding just a bit “Elvis”), singing her song in perfect harmony (and a little hippy hippy shake). The two are meant for each other, and, as our narrator explains, “…the song became love and love became The Egg.”
Through the frozen polar winter, it is the male’s job to protect the egg and nurture it under his warm fold, while the female goes off to fatten herself up to return to feed the newly hatched egg in the Spring. A secret that Memphis hides is that during the incubation process he accidentally lets the egg slip from under his protective skirt into the freezing cold. Although he recovers his charge, the threat of an abnormal egg, or worse (not hatching at all), haunts him.
All the other eggs hatched, it is Memphis and Norma Jean’s egg that cracks last. As they all wait in anticipation, out pops little Mumble (Elijah Wood later voices as the teenager), not beak first, but feet first! He immediately starts tap dancing across the icy snow—much to the shock of his father and all the penguin population. The high council of elders and his father command Mumble not to do that, because “it’s just not penguin.” Instead, Mumble is given voice lessons, in order to do what all true Emperor penguins do, and that is sing. Sing to find the “heart song” all penguins must have in order to find a mate. That is their sole purpose and must be done in order for their species to survive.
Through it all, it is Momma Norma Jean, who delights in her son’s dancing and nick names him “Happy Feet.” She believes it is good to be an individual, when all others deem him different. Momma Norma Jean always liked different. Mumble remains too unconventional to be included in a lot of penguin events, especially those that include song, as his voice is like the brash honk of a horn with a fist stuck down its throat! His feet are his expression of life and song.
As the time approaches and Mumble still hasn’t found his heart song, he laments to his parents, without a song, “…how will I know, Momma? How will I know my true love?” Memphis cheers his son on by telling him, “You’ll know her by a wiggle in her walk and a giggle in her talk.”
But, can a penguin without a heart song, ever belong? Although encouraged to be himself by Momma, and that he will eventually find his heart song through “try” and “umph!” by his Papa, Mumble is ridiculed and misunderstood by most of the penguin population, except by his childhood friend, Gloria (Brittany Murphy), who sticks up for him and waits for him to return from his adventures with a song in his heart for her.
Mostly excommunicated by the Emperor High Council, who blame his Happy Feet for the shortage of food for the Emperor tribe (fearing he has offended the mystic penguin god, “The Quin”), Mumble sets out to find the meaning for life and the real reason for the dwindling harvest of fish. In his rambling adventures, Mumble runs into a group of Latino penguins, the Adelie Amigos headed by Ramon (Robin Williams at his hilarious best), who convince him that his dancing is actually cool. They, in turn, back him and encourage him to seek the wise advice of the ultimate penguin guru, Lovelace (also the voice of Robin Williams, who sounds like a wild, ranting, hypocritical televangelist).
[ Q&A: Hypocrisy in the Church—“I would never be a Christian; they’re a bunch of hypocrites.” ]
So it goes that Mumble and his friends discover the secrets of the “aliens” (humans) who are responsible for the fish shortage, but also play a pivotal role in bringing the penguin population together once more.
It is at this point that things get a little heavy. “Happy Feet” tries to take on a lot in the final third of the story. Love, music, environmental issues, comedy, drama, spirituality, individualism, Robin Williams comedy—it’s all there folks. Although I was entertained the whole way through to the final credits, I believe some issues might have been dropped to move the story along, but thanks to the capable direction of George Miller and the lively pop songs (and the CGI mentioned before), few will be left yawning in their seats.
Although many may assume that this cuddly penguin film is designed for little kids, the pop music lyrics, dialog, and storyline are generally more appropriate (and more interesting) for junior highers, high schoolers and adults, than for little ones. There are some pretty scary scenes where the little penguins are chased unmercifully by large, raging seals with great big teeth. Some scenes include threats of death from huge killer whales and are menacing, which may scare a timid child. Some scenes have thunderous loud noises and scary other action, including a collapsing glacier and frightening gulls that want to eat baby Mumbles.
Another reason to avoid taking little ones to this film are the many sexual references and innuendos (keeping with the penguin’s sole purpose in life, which is to mate). The procreation theme is advanced by the choice of too adult-minded songs that include lyrics such as:
“You don’t have to be beautiful to turn me on, I just need your body, baby, from dusk till dawn.”
Or unbelievably, the un-kid-friendly Salt “n” Pepa’s inappropriate…
“Let’s talk about sex, baby.”
Many Christians are offended by the film’s in your face references to Christian fundamentalism. The vulture-like Elders of the High Council frequently intimidate the penguin masses by telling them that unless they believe in “The Quin” and heed all the rules (along with whatever the elders tell them), the penguin population is blasphemous and will never survive, as “The Quin” will not bless them. Also, the spiritual “guru” Lovelace’s (Robin Williams) performance mocks donation-seeking televangelists, and at the same time implies the f-word, then adds:
“I shall retire to my couch of perpetual indulgence. Okay ladies, who’s first?”
I felt uneasy for families in the theater. I wondered what a parent sitting next to a 7 year old would say when the child turned to them and asked, “What did he mean by that, Daddy?”
In contrast, Mumble has a kind and right heart, and he never gives up. He shows courage and love for his family. He demonstrates a humble spirit, never making himself higher than his parents or those in charge, even when they were wrong. He honors his parents—all Biblical qualities to point out to your children.
King David danced before The Lord. Although he danced because of his great joy, knowing that God was God, we can still relate to the truthful, unblemished abandon in his praise. Let us express delight in God. Laughter also allows us to express the joy that God has placed in our hearts.
Something some folks may not know: The late Director of The Australia Zoo and beloved Animal Activist Steve Irwin (the Crocodile Hunter) played the voice of Kev. The film was also dedicated to him and others, as the film’s basic message was about animal preservation.
Even though the ad campaigns leading up to this movie pretty much saturated the market, and made me wonder if I was being set up for a let down, I was not disappointed by the film’s entertainment value and quality. “Happy Feet” is a tech marvel, and enjoyable for those who like pop music and dancing. However, “Happy Feet” is pushing the envelope on the anti-Christian involvement within our society, and it is right that parents have decided not to see it with small, impressionable children. It is also right that some families do not plan on buying the DVD, as kids do watch them over and over, embedding messages in their subconscious.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.
[ How important is it to be “Politically Correct?” Answer ]