There has been a spate of cartoon movies released this year. Off the top of my head I can count the following that we have rented from the BlockBuster Video: Ice Age: The Meltdown, Cars, Monster House, and Over the Hedge. Except for perhaps Monster House, the others are hilarious replete with cute animals and definitely at the apex as far as cartoon entertainment goes.
For some reasons, human cartoon characters appear to be somewhat less “entertaining” when compared to the animal genre, at least for me. Somehow human cartoon characters lack the verve, the spontaneity, and the element of surprise the way the storyline evolves and thickens. Maybe it’s the familiarity (we are after all humans), which tends to breed contempt, so it’s easy to see through the façade, the make-believe. Anyway that’s only my take.
Previously we have seen the docu-movie, the March of the Penguins, describing the way Emperor Penguins treat their young, and perhaps a role model for the humans, their spouses, which is decidedly monogamous. That goes to show that the animal kingdom can teach us humans a thing or two too.
Then we watched the trailer for the cartoon version, with more twists than one, Happy Feet, that started been shown in cartoon DVDs since early in the year. And we fell in love with the animated penguins, all tapping away in unison, instantly.
So we waited, and waited, for the official release of the movie. Months after months went by and before we know it, it’s November.
With much anticipation, we chose to watch Happy Feet on Black Friday (read here), and at the only IMAX theatre in town, at Channelside. Touted as the ultimate movie experience, IMAX features “crystal clear images up to eight stories high, and wrap-around digital surround sound”. And we were not disappointed. The full blast sound sensation (especially when the penguins are tapping their feet to a crescendo), the “think big” picture quality, the reclining seat with an unobstructed view of the entire screen. The only downside, if there is one, is it’s not in 3D, thereby not maximizing the impact that IMAX can deliver. But the admission charged is commensurate at $7 per head compared to $12 for a 3D screening [Correction: My wife just showed me the ticket stubs today (Dec 2, 2006) and they show $12, each. I must have read the total as $28 (there were 4 of us in the party) instead of $48. So I stand corrected].
Now, if you have not seen the movie and like most people, do not like the element of surprise, the unknown, the suspense, to be spoilt by what I'm going to blog next about the movie, you're hereby forewarned to stop right here, and to continue after you've seen the movie to see whether you share my enthusiasm for the Happy Feet. Otherwise, read on.
Back to the movie, the main character is Mumble (see right image), which spots the voice of Elijah Wood, and is born with a pair of happy feet that could not resist launching into a tapping mode at the slightest provocation. In the end, through its heroics, its steadfastness in not changing its tapping way, and its tenacity and determination to get to the bottom of the scarcity of fish resources brought about by the wanton over-fishing activities of Mr. Being, he was able to transform the entire Emperor penguin population into accepting dancing to complement singing, the hitherto only traditional criterion used to judge whether a juvenile penguin has come of age, as the twin hallmark of a proud penguin tribe. The Happy Feet have prevailed.
Then there is the Fab Five, the five Spanish-mouthing penguins belonging to a shorter penguin species (see right image), led by the irrepressible Ramon. Ramon’s voice belongs to none other than the ever popular and my favorite, Robin Williams. Their rapid succession of delivery, interjecting each other at will but without disrupting the flow of the dialog, and careening off tangent and then coming back with greater gusto, is enough to leave the audience in stitches. I particularly like the amigo accents, which kind of threw me off in placing the voice of Ramon.
Then there is Dr. Lovelace, the only one which has a sense of the cause of the impending doom and which led Mumble to its ultimate encounter with Mr. Being. And yes, this is Robin Williams again, using his signature voice just like the Genie in Aladdin.
At the end, Happy Feet triumphed as the ecologically conscious Mr. Being imposed a moratorium of fishing around the Antarctic region, thereby preserving the food source for penguins and other aquatic life.
We walked out of the theatre smiling and with ever a slight spring in our gait.
Thanks to all the people behind the making of Happy Feet. Now we truly understand that dancing is just like singing with your body, the famous line of Mumble when teaching his Dad to dance.