[BlogEntry] Happy Feet : A truly epic animated dancing penguin movie

Took the kids (4 and 2) to see Happy Feet this weekend.  IMAX style, which I explained to Katherine simply as, "A zillion times bigger than the movie screen you're thinking of – the biggest movie screen in the world."  It was a pretty easy call from the minute I saw the commercials — just a big ol' mess of animated, dancing and singing penguins.  Perfect kids movie.

Ummm…. not so much.

Yes, it's an animated dancing and singing penguin movie.  But it's also lots and lots of other things.  It's long.  It's scary.  And it's so crazy over the top political in its environmental message that I'm pretty sure I saw an animated Al Gore in there somewhere near the end.  We get it.  Humans screw up the food chain.  And it will take a miracle, such as thousands of penguins tap dancing, to make people realize that.  Perhaps that second part of the message wasn't what the producers intended, but it comes with the story.

Although the movie is only a little longer than the typical kids movie (I think it still comes in at under 100 minutes), man did they shove alot of movie in here.  It's as if somebody read the basic 36 plots and tried to shove them all in.  He's different from the crowd, so he is shunned.  Doesn't get to play in any penguin games, so to speak.  Check.  His dad wants him to be what society wants him to be, rather than to be himself, so there's got to be the falling out and the reconciliation.  Check.  (This part was the weakest of all the stories, by the way).  He's got to get the girl.  This was so obvious that they didn't even make much of a conflict out of it, it was obvious from the beginning.  And he's got to go on a journey to save everyone.  This was the part where it got scary and, quite frankly, depressing.  Again I say, "We get it. Humans bad.  Animals innocent victims."  It's hard to say "hero's journey" while talking about animated penguins, but really, if you see it, you'll see what I mean. 

Here's a comparison.  Did you see the Spielberg A.I. movie?  Remember how it just never really ended?  How it just kept getting darker and darker and you were never really sure if it was just going to stop on a downer note, or if it was going to circle back around?  This movie's got a bunch of that toward the end.  I'm not saying whether it circles back around or not, lest I be accused of spoiling it.

Is it for kids?  Maybe a little older than mine. Mine recognize the penguins, they did the plastic toys you can get at Burger King, they watch the commercials and so on.  Did they understand the movie?  Eh. The 2yr old certainly didn't.  The 4yr old found it mostly scary.  But then again she finds all movies scary, including Strawberry Shortcake.  She does not like bad guys.  And this movie does have a bunch of them.  There's a boatload of scenes where the penguins are chased by scary predators (during such scenes I'm turning to my wife and saying, "Oh come on, do they really have to do this again??")

Overall, was it enjoyable?  Cute.  Not as good as I'd hoped.  The direction is pretty lousy, if you can say that about an animated movie.  Lots of music, though you get the feeling that you never really hear a song from beginning to end.  Lots of dancing, but never really any focus on anything other than feet moving so fast you pretty much can't tell that they're moving, before cutting away to a scene of thousands of them doing the same thing.  The "final battle", if you can call it that, between the young penguins and the old guard was actually pretty entertaining – the old penguins do this sort of baritone chant to the "Great Guin", trying to drown out the music that the young ones are making, and it blends nicely.

This is getting too long.  It was a nice, typical Thanksgiving movie.  Glad we saw it.  Wish it was better.


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