Whoever on this godless Earth thought that the man who directed a trilogy of post-apocalyptic survival films starring Mel Gibson in the form of Mad Max should also direct a film about a fluffy penguin learning to dance his way through life should be locked away for good. I didn’t need to ever see Happy Feet, nor did I ever want to. But sometimes you don’t get to decide the movie you and your flatmates watch, and sometimes they choose to watch Happy Feet because they remember it from their childhood. I had managed to skip Happy Feet, managing to preserve my childhood, but the scythe is remorseless for those that look to skip the Elijah Wood penguin film. I made it twenty years into my life without seeing a single frame of this film, but my freedom has ended.
Even as I sprint my way through adulthood, I can’t shake the feeling that I watched Happy Feet a little too late for it to have any real impact on me. To be fair though, I have my doubts that even as a child I would’ve held no love for a film about a penguin who cannot sing, and makes his way in the world by breakdancing into the hearts and minds of millions around the world. Looking back on animated films when the whole genre was coming into its own, it’s hard not to criticise the dated animation. Computer-generated hellscapes litter the arctic tundra, a desolate land full of nightmare fuel in the form of poorly rendered penguins covering all your favourite tunes in a manner that sounds like they’re choking on the polluted waters they seem to love.
Wood and the rest of the terrifyingly packed cast of A-Listers really put their heart and soul to some mesmerizingly horrible performances. Hearing Robin Williams’ voice echo out of a penguin trapped in a six-pack ring is the type of cinema that will stick with you into your final years. You’ll clutch at your heart one morning on a cold winter’s day, your final thought not of family or of experience, but of Ramon. His sickening vocal cords will strangle any sign of happier times, crushing your fondest memories under the flipper of emotionless, child-friendly movie-going.
Most child-friendly films can be excused for catering to its intended audience. Films not made for older generations that will prove rather grating but wholesome and harmless for those that either don’t know any better or haven’t gotten to the age where they can form an opinion without dribbling. But, then again, I know people my age that struggle to do the latter, so perhaps Happy Feet holds within it a sort of everlasting charm. Its charisma knows no bounds, the ability to bring together a message of world peace through the medium of expressionless toe-tapping, all the while bringing home an environmentalist issue as Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman warble their way through musical numbers that muse on the loss of their son.
Happy Feet would be forgivable if it weren’t so cursed. It is beyond my comprehension as to how someone without fervent nostalgia or some sort of severe love for animated penguins can enjoy this. Even as a film for kids, it’s just sort of bland. It hits all the expected notes that we’ve come to accept from this genre of filmmaking. A film that is no better than the drivel put out by the likes of Illumination Studios, there’s just no heart within this film. Not a flicker of emotion from cast or crew. This is a worse hellscape than Mad Max ever portrayed.