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Paul Greenwood

Published December 8th, 2006 | by Paul Greenwood

Happy Feet Review

Classification: U Director: George Miller Rating: 5/5

Just as some films can take a wrong turn early on and lose an audience, with only a miracle able to prompt a recovery, so some can grab you from the start and never let go. After about three minutes on screen, I was hopelessly in love with Happy Feet and it would have taken a disastrous collapse to change that. Thankfully, that collapse never comes and the film only gets better the longer it goes on. Without even accounting for the fact that it’s been a pretty weak year for animated fare, Happy Feet is a balls-out masterpiece, easily and instantly one of the best non-Disney/Pixar American animated films ever made. It’s Planet Earth narrated by way of Moulin Rouge instead of David Attenborough.

The theory goes that each penguin has its own individual “heartsong” which it needs to find a mate. Young Mumble (voiced by Daily when he’s ickle and oh so cute, then Wood when he gets a bit older) is born with the worst singing voice in the penguin world, which can make for a pretty tough ride when your parents sound like Marilyn Monroe and Elvis. Compensation for this comes in the form of his love of dancing via his nonstop “happy feet”. His mother (Kidman) is supportive but his dad (Jackman) is embarrassed by the whole affair (“It just ain’t penguin son”). Marked as a disruptive influence by the elders (including Weaving doing a pretty damn good Scottish accent) and even blamed for the dwindling fish stocks, he’s ostracised from the community and takes up with a group of Hispanic penguins on a quest to discover why the fish are disappearing.

There’s nothing about Happy Feet that doesn’t work, with every element just another layer of delicious icing on the cake. At its heart it’s one of the most glorious celebrations of individuality, diversification and acceptance ever committed to film. But then it gets wrapped in a blanket of breathtaking visuals and a level of artistry that’s almost photo-real in its beauty. The voice work is exemplary (Robin Williams does three different characters and doesn’t annoy) and it will either have you laughing or on the verge of tears throughout. Then, just when you think it can’t fit anything else in, we get a sharp eco-message. And if that’s all a little too preachy and worthy for you, then just revel in the sight of tens of thousands of penguins bursting into pop and soul classics every five minutes. Sublime.


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