Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Happy Feet

It seems to be Penguin Mania lately. There was the documentary March of The Penguins. And there were the mafia penguins of Madagascar. Now, there is the artistically inclined penguin(s) of Happy Feet. While I weren’t such a great fan of penguins in the first place, Happy Feet very well converted me. Warner Brothers really had outdone themselves this time.

With all the imitation movies with the same old plotline [Madagascar, The Wild] popping up all over the place, it is refreshing to finally see the bright spark that is Happy Feet. Swans are destined to soar across the stage with grace while nightingales are meant to sooth the night with their heavenly voices. Penguins have practically the same purpose of koala bears (to me, anyway): To be the huggable spokesmen of their respective animal kingdoms. Who wouldn’t wanna squeeze the fluffy lil’ things against them? They’re cute, soft, cuddly…Anyway; the flightless, cuddly birds are the last thing I’ll associate with dance and song.
But Warner Bros broke the stereotype by doing a darn good job of putting the arts into huggable puffy birds.

The beginning of the movie already was far-fetched enough, with Mumble’s mother singing in her breathy voice and all the other males gathering around her in an attempt to attract her attention. Then along came Mumble’s dad, with his rock-and-rollicking antics. And you know the drill, they fall in love, get together and Mumble comes along.

Listening to the junior penguin singing class was crack. Literally, hearing Mumble’s voice screech halfway into a song was even better than the Singapore Idol auditions. Was Elijah Wood really tone-deaf in real life? And notably outstanding was the rapping chubby one, whom I recognized even in adulthood.

The effort of keeping half-chewed popcorn inside the mouth (Not in the throat, not all over the floor and definitely not up my nose) while guffawing (elegantly, mind) nearly unhinged my jaw. Another thing which sets this movie apart is the use of human actors to be human people. I mean, in the other animated animal films, everything is animated humans and all. But they actually involved real people in there, all the more making the scenario more real.

At first, the overly-breathy tone of Mumble’s mother was mildly jarring. If she took human form, it would probably something like a Stepford wife; blonde, pretty and every bit the perfect housewife. Thankfully, her frequent appearances in the first half reduced the reactions from physical cringing to a mere mental wince.

Although the withdrawal of all industry fishing was utterly ridiculous, from my cynical point of view, that is. No businessmen in their right minds would ever give up such a lucrative industry simply to save a species that is of no profitable use to them. It is a foolish hope to ever wish that into reality. Perhaps it is a sort of propaganda for naïve impressionable kids? To implant instill a sense of obligation so they would be more inclined to save the Earth? Well, if it backfires, the kiddies out there would be deprived of their Omega fatty acids while abstaining from fish so they wouldn’t lessen the poor penguins’ limited food supply. Poor penguins. Or rather, poor mothers. No fatty acids, no brain development, no good grades.

I wonder why Mumble was still stuck in a half fledging state at the end of the movie. To humanize him perhaps? The fledglings did look more capable of emotions rather than the adult Emperor penguins.

The characterization of the penguin species was humorous in a way. The Emperor Penguins were much like their namesake; royal and classy. Like the arty-farty people who regularly go for choir sessions. While the Amigos’ species (I don’t know what species they are), are the Jamaican partiers. Their neighborhood seems a cross between the American hip-hop style and the Caribbean beach parties.

Unlike the other movies in the kid-friendly genre, the lessons taught here actually differ from the usual family values. To sums things up, it goes along the lines of “Don’t be afraid to be yourself and to break free from past traditions. The road to self discovery may be a long and lonely one.” And the creators even managed to squeeze in a bit of wildlife conservation promo while they’re at it. It was a pretty good catch for a movie which I picked randomly amongst the titles available.
Song & Dance + Educational Values + Cute Animals = The Ultimate Kid Movie™. It’s been a long time since I watched one of those..