Happy Feet (2006)

Starring: Elijah Wood, Robin Williams, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Brittany Murphy, Hugo Weaving, Miriam Margolyes, EG Daily

Directed by: George Miller

Rating: 1 2 3 4

Mumble, the dancing penguin in Happy Feet

Looking for the perfect seasonal movie to lift your spirits and warm your miserable cold heart this Christmas? Congratulations, you've just found it, because Happy Feet is the cutest, most charming slice of Christmas magic you'll find this year.

Set in the icy wastes of Antarctica, the film tells the story of a community of emperor penguins, who survive the eternal cold dark winters of an inhospitable land by. singing. Yes, when all those male penguins are huddled together, guarding their eggs against the icy blasts of snow and wind, they're harmonising like a Welsh male voice choir. And how do the female penguins recognise their mates when they return in the spring from their epic trek to the shore to find food? By the sound of their voices of course, raised joyously as they sing their special, individual 'heart song'. Which, if you've ever seen a documentary about penguins, actually seems to make perfect sense - until you realise they're singing 'Kiss' by Prince.

Anxious dad Memphis (Hugh Jackman) waits for his egg to hatch

Anyway. Imagine the consternation of the community when cute'n'cuddly fluff ball Mumble (voiced by Elijah Wood), son of flippered Elvis impersonator Memphis (Hugh Jackman) and silver-throated Norma Jean (Nicole Kidman), discovers that he can't sing. And worse still, he can't control his dancing feet. Shunned by his friends and family, poor Mumble (still sporting his downy baby feathers like the ultimate late bloomer) is exiled from the ice flow, cast out as a scapegoat after the dour, fire and brimstone elders of the community superstitiously blame his unpenguinlike toe-tapping for the sudden depletion in their staple diet, fish.

Proud parents Norma Jean (Nicole Kidman) and Memphis (Hugh Jackman) with baby Mumble

So together with newfound friends Lovelace, Ramon (both brilliantly voiced by Robin Williams) and a posse of hilarious South American rockhopper penguins, he vows to regain his position by finding out where all the fish have gone and bringing them back. Will he succeed in saving the starving community, winning the love of the beautiful Gloria (Brittany Murphy) and stopping global warming, filling the hole in the ozone layer and eliminating pollution all in one fell swoop? Now that would be telling.

Mumble (Elijah Wood) with his penguin posse

From start to finish, this film is a delight. Taking the lead from Pixar, director George Miller has roped in an impressive array of vocal talent to bring his all singing, all dancing birds to life. Hugh Jackman may well have stolen the show with his Vegas-era Elvis penguin, were it not for Robin Williams' stellar turn as the Barry White guru penguin Lovelace and the sparky, cheeky, irrepressible Ramon. The penguins are beautifully and naturalistically realised (yes, they do actually look and act like penguins, even while they are getting on down to 'Boogie Boogie Nights') and the animation astounding; the plot has your classic 'lovable loser comes good' trajectory that few folk can resist and the music will have you clapping your flippers and tapping your webbed toes in the aisles.

Yes, it is at times rather too sentimental, and the environmental message at the end is pretty naïve, but if this film can stir the consciences of just a tiny proportion of people it will delight and charm, it'll be doing pretty well.

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