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Happy Feet


Stars: Voices: Elijah Wood, Robin Williams, Hugh Jackman, Brittany Murphy, Nicole Kidman

Director: George Miller

Dancing penguins? You won't soon forget them. No wonder this computer-generated cartoon out-smarted Casino Royale at the US box-office. It must be a contender for film of the year.

The setting is faithful to the Antarctic world seen in the real-life March of the Penguins. Emperor penguins Memphis (Jackman) and Norma Jean (Kidman) find their heartsong together and he sits on the subsequent egg while she joins the other wives on the annual trek to the fishing grounds.

Alas, Memphis loses the egg and, although he soon retrieves it, the result is Mumble (Wood), a penguin who cannot sing, just tap-dance, an accomplishment which merely horrifies his fellow birds. Driven away from the colony, Mumble grows up to look a bit like Frodo from Lord of the Rings, not surprising as he's voiced by the star of that epic trilogy.

Encountering flocks of Adelie and rockhopper penguins, Mumble wins them over with his happy feet, and leads a small group in search of the 'aliens' he believes are decimating penguin fishing grounds.

As you can see, there's a serious ecological message here, as well as some slightly downbeat stuff towards the end. But the film is full of joy and excitement too - including a terrifying encounter with a leopard seal - and you'll be stunned at the sight of thousands of penguins chanting, dancing and moving in formation rhythm.

Williams contributes a couple of cameos that are wittier than any of his recent work in live-action comedy, but the star of the vocal show is Murphy as the apple of Mumble's eye. She reveals a spectacular singing voice that dwarfs her limited achievements as an actress.

Beautifully-crafted, mind-bogglingly detailed and ecologically aware, Happy Feet dances its way into the ranks of cartoon classics.

David Quinlan

USA 2006. UK Distributor: Warner Brothers. Technicolor.
108 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: U.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 04 Dec 2006