Saturday, January 06, 2007

Festival of Wise-ass Animals 1

Elf thought the boys would both enjoy Happy Feet, so we went to see it last night. It has been getting some good reviews, and the shorts looked pretty good. I had heard one negative comment which I'll come back to.

I was offside right from the word go, when I realised it was a musical. Yes, I should have done some homework, I know. To quote the BBC film reviews site "At first glance, this looks like your regulation kiddie fare: cuddly animals, big star voices (Elijah Wood, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman and so on). What you actually get is a bewildering combination of anthropomophic perversity and environmental polemic, all scored to cheesy pop hits."

I actually loathe musicals, because it offends me when friction between two characters has been set up a certain way, then suddenly all bets are off when the music starts. A and B both want the same girl, then she falls for A who starts singing a song about how blue the sky is etc while C, D, E and F sing backing vocals. And also B. Hang on - why is HE singing? Because its a musical.

The penguins are too real looking for the things they are asked to do and say. One talks and sings like Elvis. Mumble, the main character, does incredible tap dancing, but it's motion-captured from some human celebrity tap dancer. All I ask is that someone imagine how a penguin would tap dance, and animate THAT.

All the other penguins constantly break into song, but Mumble can't sing. He dances instead. The religious fundamentalist elder penguins think his hot-foot behaviour is offending the Big Penguin in the Sky (or something) and that's why there's no more fish. Mumble goes off to human land, shows them his fancy moves, gets dropped right back where he came from with a radio implant (this takes about 8 minutes in movie time) then he saves the colony by showing all the other penguins how to dance. Suddenly people notice them and all fishing in the Antarctic is banned.

The negative comment I heard in advance was that the movie starts with an "accepting difference" angle, and ends with everyone else having to be just like Mumble to save their bacon. This is spot on. Also I don't buy an environmental message from anthropomorphic animals having any impact on viewers. I found myself thinking, as a shapely young girl penguin scoffed down a fish - "What's the fish's name? Does he sing? Is he a loveable rogue? Will he have a Brooklyn Jewish accent?" But no - he was just a fish. Like the old "Goofy talks/Pluto doesn't" conundrum, there is always a line drawn somewhere.

When we came out Marcus asked "What would we have done if we didn't come to this movie?" I said probably played some games then gone to bed. "What games?" He was already trying to get back his 109 minutes.


James V said...

I share your antipathy topwards the 'musical' in general. But I do love the Sound of Music and the Dancer in the Dark is one of my most favourite films of all, not the least for the genius of Bjork and von Trier. Alas, I have promised Bea and Tom that they shall see Happy Feet, so see it they must (but I didn't say when...)

chris rees said...

I agree there are exceptions to the "all musicals are duds" rule. Haven't seen Dancer in the Dark. Apart from whether it's to your taste or not, there are some bits in Happy Feet that will scare the kids - nasty leopard seals and killer whales, quite Jaws-y at times. That might be your excuse to put it off until Bea is, maybe, 12?