Happy Feet

dir: George Miller
[img_assist|nid=844|title=I tell you what, this movie didnt give me happy feet after watching it, more like angry liver|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=297]
Enough, already. The success of Pixar’s movies and the Shrek monstrosities has led to an incredible and totally fathomable explosion in the amount of computer animated movies stinking up the cinemas. A bunch of years ago there’d be one or two over the course of the year. In 2006, there were about twenty of them.

It was inevitable that computer animation would replace traditional hand drawn animation and that it would start garnering a greater share of studio and audience attention. And that’s not because it’s any cheaper or quicker to produce, because these flicks cost multi-millions to make and take many years to complete. But being able to point to the advances in animation techniques is the selling point itself. The stories certainly aren’t improving along with the programming. So much money is being invested in these things, so much money is at stake, so the stories are getting more and more bland and safe as their producers become even more risk-averse than previous.

Most of my instincts, upon first watching the trailer for Happy Feet a few weeks ago, told me that I would hate this film. People who’d seen it tried to soothe the savage beast, in this case me, by pointing out that the hokiest and cheesiest bits were in the trailers, but the rest of the flick was worthy of watching and actually enjoyable. Get past the first fifteen minutes, and the rest would be gravy.

I should have listened to my instincts. Gods know they’ve got me where I am today: four steps from the gutter, but hey, at least it’s not the gutter

Happy Feet is a story about irritatingly familiar penguins living down there at the world’s coldest nether regions known as Antarctica. These penguins not only talk, and sing, but they dance as well. Sir David Attenborough must want to vomit with rage that he never caught them at it. Those French documentary makers who froze their dingleberries off making the hit film March of the Penguins, probably the most tedious documentary ever made, must also be overflowing with hatred that they never saw these creatures line dancing either.

As part of their annual mating rituals the penguins sing their heart songs, songs of such incredible (to them) beauty and banality and Top 40 radio blandness that their true loves can’t help but come along to mate with them on the spot.

Two such penguins called, no shit, Norma Jean (Nicole Kidman) and Memphis (Hugh Jackman), meet, mate, and have a baby called Mumble (Elijah Wood). Norma Jean, of course, sounds like Marilyn Monroe. Memphis sounds like Elvis Presley and sings Presley songs.

I know it seems petty to bitch about the fact that talking animated penguins have celebrities playing them and doing the voices of other famous people, but it’s pretty tedious and unimaginative. For what you think would be predominately a kid’s film, you have to wonder why there needs to be so many popular culture references from the 60s, 70s and 80s.

And the music! The songs chosen made me want to strangle real penguins at a zoo or down at Philip Island, which is overrun with those filthy fairy penguins. I mean there’s disco, there’s funk, there’s Queen, there’s all sorts of the most commonly heard on commercial radio crap that made me feel like looking around to check if someone had left their radio on tuned to Gold 104 or Mix 101.1. You know, the kinds of stations that play the same crap from the same craptastic performers every day at around the same time. Honestly, isn’t there a limit to the amount of times you could possibly want to listen to Phil Collins, Whitney Houston or Huey Lewis and the News daily before desperately wanting to blow your brains out or get strung up Saddam-style?

Happy Feet takes that approach to overloading the flick with the most familiar of familiar songs to turn the flick into the ultimate in syrupy casseroles. On top of that annoying playlist of the blandest songs of the last thirty years, moments of supposed heartfelt beauty or meaning are overloaded with an orchestral score loud enough to shatter the cockles of my heart. Aren’t those cockles and sub-cockles meant to be warmed by these kinds of films instead?

No, this film poured liquid nitrogen on my heart, and smashed it with a sledgehammer of clichés. If it hadn’t been the music, it would have been the awful story, badly conceived characters and dumb overall message.

It’s bad enough that every penguin has to conform to some kind of human stereotype or specific referent in the ‘human’ world: in that you get penguin Elvis, penguin Marilyn, penguin Barry White, penguin Chicanos and Hispanics, penguin African-Americans, penguin Mafiosi. But once the overall message of the film, next to the one about being yourself and not conforming with the rest of the herd, is revealed and dealt with in the most tokenistic fashion imaginable, the slightest goodwill I might have had for the flick was crushed even further. All the most incredibly animated penguins, water, ice and action sequences couldn’t stop me from hating each second that this movie continued to roll on.

I’m not one to get angry over a film possessing an environmental message, but the one here and its resolution is an embarrassment to human and penguin kind. George Miller, the ostensive director of this flick, is the same guy who made not only Babe, which is a far superior movie in my opinion, but Mad Max as well, or The Road Warrior, as it is known overseas. Mad Goddamn Max with Mad Mel Gibson. That this same guy could want a film to resolve a movie’s plot by having the dancing of penguins compel humans to change their wicked ways makes me want to destroy the environment myself. Shoot pandas, dump oil on pristine beaches, the whole works.

Another massive miscalculation on the part of the makers is to overestimate the value of having Robin Williams provide multiple voices. When the inevitable occurs, and someone makes an animated movie where Williams provides every single screeching, caterwauling voice in a movie, the sheer evil of the concoction will cause black holes to spontaneously appear on screens the world over, which will lead to the destruction of all life as we know it.

I really did not think much of this at all. And hey, I can tolerate and enjoy flicks aimed mostly at kids. I’ve had no trouble enjoying flicks as childish as Charlotte’s Web, Night at the Museum and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. The most superlative animation in the world can’t cover such a bland, generic, humourless, lazy, retarded story.

But, you know, the animation is AMAZING. Really amazing. But that doesn’t make me want to murder penguins any less.

3 penguins that should be shoved into Robin William’s mouth to try to get him to shut the hell up out of 10

“Don’t. Push. Me. Cause. I’m. Close. To. The. Edge. I’m. Trying. Not. To. Lose. My. Head.” – the only amusing bit of the whole movie for me, and even that had to come from somewhere else, Happy Feet.