Happy Feet (2006)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Happy Feet</strong> (2006)

(In theaters, December 2006) This film may be many things, but it’s certainly not what you’re expecting. Those who go in expecting another one of the many, many CGI-animal-comedy films released this year will be surprised by the action scenes, the explicit environmentalism, the romantic drama, the religious satire, the ethnic references, the soul/rap soundtrack and the often unusual turns of the plot. Technically, it’s a stunning piece of work: The Antarctic landscape is fabulously well-rendered, and the animators work miracles with the relatively limited constraints of penguin anatomy. The direction, by Mad Max alumni George Miller (who’s no stranger to off-beat family films such as Babe 2: Pig In The City), is slick and never hesitates to use the possibilities of CGI to its fullest extent. The action scenes alone are surprisingly enjoyable. But it’s on a story level that Happy Feet is most audacious: The film meanders here and there on the emotional map, opting for segments that range from amusing to nightmarish: The density and variety of the story makes the film feel considerably longer than its 108 minutes. Unfortunately, it also gives it a disconnected, almost incoherent feel: by the time it pulls itself together for a toe-tapping finale, it feels as if the film pulls itself out of a corner by jumping out the side window. Perplexing, but still more interesting than most CGI film released this year. The music alone makes it all worthwhile: Beyond the Moulin Rouge!-esque musical sampling of the first few minutes, the latter segments all lift the film well above its usual level and are guaranteed to make you smile… and tap.

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