Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Happy Feet

A while back, my family bought the DVD of "March of the Penguins." There was a movie trailer on there that just instantly captivated us, of a computer-animated baby penguin tap-dancing to Stevie Wonder. It was just a marvelous bit of animation, full of joy and charm. Most trailers on DVD, you're anxious to skip over so you can watch the movie. This one, we rewatched something like three times, and when the feature was over, we went back and watched it again. It was that cool. And of course, as soon as it was over, we were all saying that we couldn't wait to see the whole movie.

Well, on Sunday, we did. And I wish I could say that "Happy Feet" lived up to the promise of that brief teaser, but alas, it does not. Or maybe it does, depending on your politics.

Let's put it this way: if you voted for Al Gore in 2000, you're a lot more likely to overlook this film's shortcomings than if you voted for Bush.

Or I could quote the Village Voice review by Jordan Harper:
And even the wee ones may start to notice something's amiss when the movie's theme goes from "be yourself" to "we must regulate the overfishing of the Antarctic oceans." No, for real.
The thing is, technically, the movie's marvelous. The animation is amazing. And the musical numbers are awesome, combining hooky, infectious medleys of pop songs with terrific motion-captured dancing moves. But sometimes the film has to really give an artificial heave to make the plot do what it wants (like the number in which, instead of singing a duet with his love interest, Mumble taps a counterpoint to her voice instead - it gets pretty good toward the end, but it's clunky and forced at the start).

And after the movie has already kind of exhausted your suspension-of-disbelief muscles, it then sprains them altogether by veering from a Hollywood-standard self-esteem theme into trendy enviro-preaching. My eyes hurt from rolling them so much in the last fifteen minutes of the fim.

If my daughter has her way, we'll probably end up buying the DVD, but I have to say, the Pixar films do a much better job of integrating adult themes painlessly into an ostensibly children's entertainment. I would have preferred more dancing and less preaching.

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