People love singing animals. (As former EW staffer/current Daily Show writer Tim Carvell observed in our 2003 Guilty Pleasures issue: “There is something inherently wrong (yet so right) about a mouse singing in a high-pitched, mousy voice. It is simply the most human, civilized thing an animal could do. Also, I really like when they wave their tiny paws for emphasis.”)
And critics, for the most part, are loving them some Happy Feet. The Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Colin Covert raves, “With its wondrous visuals and toe-tapping score, [George] Miller’s fable is designed to entertain all ages, but it avoids the triple-dipped sugar coating that gags grownups. Like a Grimm’s fairy tale, it has passages of darkness woven into the fabric of charm and wonderment.”
Those “passages of darkness” are, however, a point of contention. The Village Voice‘sJordan Harper prefers his penguin movies light: “Mumbles (ElijahWood)… can’t sing, but he’s born with the gift of tap, thuseverything’s on track for a cute story about being yourself. But thenthere’s Robin Williams. Children, innocent as they are, may not yethave grown to loathe the actor’s shtick, but you might like to knowthat he has two – yes, two – roles in this film. And even the weeones may start to notice something’s amiss when the movie’s theme goesfrom ‘be yourself’ to ‘we must regulate the overfishing of theAntarctic oceans.’ No, for real.”
The Hollywood Reporter’s Kirk Honeycutt, on the other hand, seems to reallylike his fowl films to run deep: “In the barren, hostile Antarcticwilderness where these hardy yet somewhat comical birds make theirhome, Miller is unafraid to go for what can only be described as aneo-biblical epic. In his depiction of a plague and a pilgrimage, aGod-like penguin appearing in the sky, the portrayal of the story’shero as a prophet rejected by his own kind and even the gospelorientation of several songs, Miller boldly reaches for spiritualthemes. Happily, it all works.”
While I’m not sure if my favorite person at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Eleanor Ringel Gillespie, actually recommends the film – “Happy Feet is colorful, energetic, fast-moving, visually eyepopping and slightly soulless” – I do know that the Chicago Tribune‘sMatt Pais does not. “Catch it: If you enjoy lines like, ‘Put yourflappers in the air’ and ‘I like big tails and I can’t deny.’ Yeesh,”he writes.
Confession: I totally laughed at that. I’m buying tix as I type.