10 July 2007

Ink Blots LXXI - Happy Feet

Happy Feet was an Academy Award winner as 2006's Best Animated Film. Audiences also enjoyed the film paying $198 million to see it, but part of that could have been due to penguin mania begun by the uncanny success of March of the Penguins a year earlier and continuing to 2007's Surf's Up.

The basic plot involves the notion that most penguins are natural singers, but not Mumble. His daddy dropped him when he was an egg, and somehow that translated into a unique talent for flipper tapping. Mumble can light up the dance floor, but he has a horrible singing voice. Through the movie, he learns to appreciate his uniqueness.

This film had better than expected animation. The Antarctic landscapes are vibrant and beautiful, and the penguins are cute. CG was a good choice for animating these penguin armies as traditional animation of millions of little birds would have been tedious. Additionally, the dance choreography is well animated.

I particularly enjoyed the "latino" penguins, and the love penguin. Also, fearing the worst from Robin Williams, I was pleasantly surprised with his reasonable performance.

As for the story, it is slow and meandering. There are quite a few enjoyable scenes of penguins singing and swimming, but they don't push the story along. The main story finally arrives at about 75 minutes in, and is really lame with an even lamer, out of nowhere, resolution.

So, this film looks good on the outside and is enjoyable in parts, but overall is lacking in the story department. I would say I enjoyed both of the other Academy Award nominees (Cars and Monster House) better. Happy Feet surely won because of its beautiful animation but mostly for its environmental message. Don't get me wrong, I like the environment, but simply having an environmental message should not be reason enough for the award. If you are going to be political, do it well and do not just shoe-horn it in.

So many other films have done the nature thing so much better, particularly films by Studio Ghibli: Princess Mononoke, Naussicaa, Pom Poko, but even Disney did it masterfully with Bambi. Even last year's Over the Hedge had some clever satire on consumption and materialism.

Anyways, sorry for the rant, I just think Happy Feet is undeserving of a Best Picture nod. It is a good looking film with fun moments and cute characters that talk a lot for no real purpose. It will have to be Happy with a B-.

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