Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy Feet review 

This morning, J, L and I went to see Happy Feet. While this singing/dancing penguin spectacular has bemused some critics, it's generally been well received - David Stratton on The Movie Show even gave it 5 stars. Well, any film that begins and ends with music from Abbey Road is probably well on the way to winning me over :).

I found Happy Feet to be great entertainment, with only a few minor reservations. This was definitely the best use of computer animation I've ever seen - partly due to it being a perfect match of subject and technique - penguins look really right this way. There are way too many CGI animations for kids lately, but this one is the star attraction and stands out from the pack.

The story of Mambo, the odd misfit - a dancing penguin born into a singing penguin world - was beguiling, enjoyable and always assured storytelling. One reviewer was worried by the implausibility of penguins being able to tap-dance on snow, but this worked for me.

My main reservation was that Mambo never gets to mature fully into adult emperor penguin plumage like his contemporaries - this is okay up to a point, but by the end I was expecting it. Maybe his cute character design was too good to lose! Otherwise, one of the best features for me was the attention to correct biology paid throughout. I found the most moving parts to be those that portrayed the genuine hardships of penguin life - the long migration through the six month night, the blizzards, starvation and predators. Of particular note is the care with correct species and their habits - skuas, a leopard seal, elephant seals and killer whales. And penguins - the Adelie Amigos who feature throughout, and Lovelace, a yellow-crested rockhopper - plus various others.

The pop culture references are many, but don't detract. Primarily, these are musical - in the form of Presley, Monroe and James Brown types. The soundtrack is very eclectic, if largely American.

This is clearly a male buddy movie, with the central focus always on Mambo and his Adelie friends. The scene where Mambo rejects Gloria (the romantic interest, but a real potential friend) from joining their boys' own adventures struck me as truly unpleasant - both unnecessary and overtly sexist. That the ideal demographic for this film would be pre-teen boys seems out of step with the advertising (not to mention the title). There was a surprising amount of sexual references for a "G" film, probably largely due to Robin Williams' improvisational influence in voicing two main characters.

Some have commented about the rambling nature of the story - I really enjoyed this less linear and obvious direction for a children's film, and always felt that we were in the hands of a skilled storyteller who knew how to pick up the various threads layed out. Although there is a literal pounding home of a major environmental theme at one point, this is consistent with the tale. Focus on the problem of extreme overfishing destroying stocks is well-handled. I did think some mention could have been made of Climate Change itself, but this is still apparently (and unbelievably) a political issue in some countries. (Non Important Spoiler Alert) The elder penguins did come across as parodies of Greenhouse Effect deniers at points, I thought, particularly in the revelation that they knew the real truth.

All in all, this is an excellent film. One final touch that impressed me was that George Miller and his team had the good sense to use real people for the small parts (towards the end) where humans appear. Knowing the limits of CGI in this instance was so right and an object lesson to other computer animation companies.


The reviewer was worried about the implausibility of a penguin's ability to tap dance on snow, but not on its ability to tap dance, period? Or to be able to sing in English, for that matter?

How odd. *G*

Tony LaRocca made some similar comments regarding the heavy-handedness of the environmental message at times, and also applauded the use of real people.

I haven't seen the movie yet and probably won't until it's released on dvd, but I'll definitely have to watch it then.
I have not seen the movie yet Ian but I think I will this week.

Happy New Year!
Happy New Year, Ian. May your feet always be dancing x
Aravis, thanks for the heads up on Tony's views on Happy Feet - I see we feel similarly about a lot of the decisions made - a sure sign they're right! :)

Happy New Year, Aravis, Isay, Cherrypie, Tony (and other visitors).

Off the blog - apologies to people for my poor Christmas card sending activities this year!

Don't feel like dancin', dancin'
Um, when you saw the movie, were you perhaps asleep?
Did you go into the correct cinema?
I ask, because the animated feature *I* saw, had a character by the name of Mumble, not "Mambo", although I can see how you'd get confused.
No, sorry, I lied. How can you possibly get that wrong? Did they MUMBLE?
And sexist overtones? You moron. It's a damn CARTOON.
It's all as plausible and as sexist as a fricking talking dog... Or a busking saxophonist.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0366548/ check the character list.
If you're going to take the time to post a review, at least get the name of the lead character right.
I came here looking for a review of this movie, but again I'm faced with inanity. It never ceases to amaze me how just plain stupid people can be. Especially when they take themselves as seriously as you clearly do.
Have a sit down, a cuppa tea, and I'll make a fresh batch of clues for you.

Well, I feel better now, don't you?
PinguRCool, I'm amazed that you'd bother setting up a profile just to write this (as you don't have a Blog under this name).

The character's name is really Mambo - "Mumble" is a nickname given to him early on in the film. I made a decision to use his real name.

Sexism exists in cartoons as much as in any other media, and it's definitely the major flaw in this film. My problem with it isn't plausibility - it's the fact that the film-makers have seen fit to include female characters as love interest only, and then in a diminished way (I don't understand why Gloria can't go with them, and the scene where she is rejected rings particularly false).

It's a great film, this potential alienation of half the demographic is a pity.

As I've said before my "reviews" aren't meant to be taken as gospel, merely as personal impressions on my blog.
"It's all as plausible and as sexist as a fricking talking dog... Or a busking saxophonist."

P.S. I never had a problem with the plausibility of penguins tapdancing on ice (though one local newspaper reviewer did). Actually, I never had a problem with any of the plausibility at all, just the sexism.

And my busker strip had female busker characters as well - as full characters and not just love interests. It was certainly never sexist.
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