When it comes to moviedom, penguins are as close as it gets to a sure thing, hit-wise. This is something irresistible about this unlikely bird and the way it’s so easy to anthropomorphize its sturdy waddle and formal wear. To his credit, Miller, director, co-author, and conceiver of the story as a whole, doesn’t rely solely on that, nor on vast swaths of penguins doing the wave across a desolate tundra. No, he has done more than concoct a cutesy tale of an emperor penguin trying to find love while being himself in an otherwise homogenous society. He has sent this plucky little fellow, Mumble, on an epic journey. By the end, you will not only believe that a penguin can dance, but that he can also save the world.
Aside from eco-messages and the strictures of orthodoxy of all kinds, there is a subtle comment on the way class structures tend to work, the first world and the way it does, and sometimes doesn’t, think of those on the bottom, literally and figuratively. In keeping with that, HAPPY FEET begins and ends with a shot of the galaxy. It’s a tidy way of bookending a tale that has at its core a message that we are all in this together.
HAPPY FEET is a dazzling animated tale that dares to explore not just the romantic life of penguins, but also their spiritual side. It follows Mumbles, a penguin chick whose heartsong turns out to be fancy footwork and the effect that deviation from the orthodoxy has on his community. This isn’t just a fun and funny film, it’s also one that has a great deal to say to everyone watching it. The film stars the voices of Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Robin Williams, Hugo Weaving and Elijah Wood as Mumbles.