Happy Feet

Movie: Happy Feet

Happy Feet
Happy Feet

We watched Happy Feet during a time of stress (preparing to move house!), and found it (mostly) calming and funny. There were some quite serious, emotionally wracking moments, but – as one expects from animated movies aimed primarily at children – everything works out in the end. I must admit I dragged my feet over seeing it, because the idea of singing penguins just didn’t grab me. I adore adore adore the laconic penguins in the Madagascar movies – they (and Sacha Baron Cohen) are the primary reason I sat through any of them – but singing and dancing as well as speaking just seemed too much.

They are quite charming, though, and the music is a very enjoyable component of this film. Robin Williams is a treat and I wished his characters had more screen time. The penguins also dance (not at first), and my heart did melt a little at the sight of a tap dancing little fluffball.

As with most (all) films of this genre, there is a strong message. In Happy Feet the message is about being yourself, not conforming because others say you should, and that if you are patient you will find friends who appreciate you for your uniqueness. For grown ups (and perhaps some perceptive youngsters) there’s quite a weird, sinister plotline involving the ancient religion of the penguins, with creepy elder penguins pronouncing judgments on nonconformists and invoking all sorts of religious terminology that I thought muddied the waters somewhat. I thought the “be true to yourself” message was enough, and that children don’t necessarily need to think about the fact that it could lead to ostracism by your spiritual community, or that their spiritual community could perhaps be deluded by powerful leaders and tradition. I suppose a religious studies class could develop this analysis to whatever level their hearts desired!

I digress. The scientific/marine plotline addresses overfishing, which has depleted the food of the emperor penguins. Mumble, the (different) main character, and a motley cast of helpers, manage to alert the humans to the problem, and the film ends (sorry) with a rapprochement between the humans and penguins and the establishment of a Marine Protected Area in Antarctic waters. Along the way Mumble spends time in captivity in an aquarium, and those scenes were heartbreaking.

The life cycle of the emperor penguin is illustrated beautifully, with the males incubating the eggs during the gruelling winter months while the females head to the ocean to forage for food. Footage of leopard seals and orcas is beautifully done, but (as with all films of this type) they are anthropomorphised as bloodthirsty villains. Also exposing children to positive portrayals of these creatures would be wise. March of the Penguins is a good accompaniment to this movie.

You can purchase the DVD here if you’re in South Africa, otherwise here or here.

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Clare

Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.

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