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Happy Feet

Animated films primarily serve to entertain audiences, most particularly young children who are readily attracted to rich colors and funny sounds. But when an animation also caters to mature viewers, as well as delivering a clear message with significant social impact, then this film effectively sets itself afar from the others. One such great film is Happy Feet.

Happy Feet is a 2006 animated film co-produced by American and Australian companies. It was directed and co-written by George Miller, and released and distributed by Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow Pictures. It features the voices of Elijah Wood, Hugh Jackman, Nichole Kidman, Robin Williams, and Brittany Murphy. The film was released only in IMAX 2D format because Warner Bros. was too tight on its budget. Yet, it had achieved great commercial success.

Happy Feet features the lives of penguins and how they interact with each other, and later with humans. Accordingly, every penguin sings a unique song called a “heartsong” to attract a mate. If a male penguin can complete a female penguin’s song whom it likes, then the two can mate. So the movie begins with two penguins Norma Jean and Memphis falling in love with each other which later brings forth an adorable child named Mumble. Unlike other penguins, Mumble is a terrible singer, but he has a talent that no other penguin has ever seen before – tap dancing.  Consequently, his uniqueness makes him feel isolated, more as the sudden lack of fish in the Antarctic waters is seen by the penguin community as a punishment for his talent. Mumble is banished from the colony. But he just got to prove his worth and so he investigates the reason for the scarcity. His search leads him to the humans. And much to Mumble’s surprise, his tap dancing becomes his means to communicate with humans. Mumble returns to his colony, with the hope of providing solution to the scarcity… With the optimism to be reconciled with his parents… With a promise of love… With the hope of redeeming himself.

Happy Feet is one of my most favorite animated films for several reasons. First, the movie is entertaining, engaging, and lively. The penguins are really wild and funny, at times sad and confused. The accompanying songs are appropriate and very well-arranged. I can replay their versions of “Kiss” and “Boogie Wonderland” in my head in perfect clarity. The dubbing and voices are also perfect. Secondly, the main protagonist, Mumble, is a figure everyone can relate to. Mumble is quite lonely, struggling to find his self worth, and in the end, his life comes full circle. And that every human has that inner feeling and struggle. Thirdly, I find no real antagonists in the movie. The elder penguins cannot be the villain simply for banishing Mumble; they are simply blinded by their ignorance and fears. Maybe the human, but considering they work out on correcting their actions prove they are somehow caring, aware and kind. Next, the film has great environmental message. Over the years, there have been many campaigns against commercial overfishing in the Antarctic, and Happy Feet has effectively given the message. And lastly, the movie is brilliantly made as it succeeds to achieve believability and relevance despite its animated casts.

Happy Feet is a modern masterpiece in animation as both audience and critics love the film. It opened as number one in box office in November 2006, and is presently one of the highest grossing animated films in the U.S. It received a 74% approval rating in Rotten Tomatoes, and had been listed as one of the top ten films of 2006, including being number one in The New York Daily News and Sun News. The film and its music had been nominated and won several awards including the Academy Awards, Golden Globes, Grammy Awards, and many others. Accordingly, Happy Feet 2 is soon to take the cinemas in November 2011.

The film has become a classic from the moment it was released. Hence, I will give Happy Feet five stars out of five.

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