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In 1995 director George Miller warmed us with his talking pig movie, Babe. That live-action tale succeeded due to Miller's heart-felt storytelling skills and the loveable characters brought to life by the voices of a cast of veteran actors. Miller struck gold with Babe back then, and with the animated Happy Feet, he rides the penguin frenzy created by last year's March of the Penguins even though production started before it was released - to what will most assuredly be even bigger success. Kids will love it, but probably not as much as their parents.

The story begins in the Antarctic with two Emperor penguins named Memphis (Hugh Jackman) and Norma Jean (Nicole Kidman) who fall in love and have an egg. As the females leave the flock to feed on fish, the males stay behind to provide nurturing warmth for the eggs. A slight mishap occurs causing the egg to momentarily slip away from Memphis' grasp. Hoping that no internal damage was done to the egg, Memphis curiously awaits his offspring's hatch.

As the fluffy little Mumble (Elijah Wood) emerges from its shell, things appear normal. Until it comes time for Mumble to perfect his heartsong, the identity defining croon of his species that will later attract a mate. While the rest of his flock belts out such rousing numbers as Prince's Kiss and Queen's Somebody to Love, Mumble can only yowl and screech. What's worse, he wants to dance something that is viewed as the most anti-penguin by the flock's elders who blame the diminishing supply of fish on his disturbing oddity and eventually banish him from the flock.

Mumble is soon on his own where he eventually meets a gaggle of Adelie Penguins (led by Robin Williams) who don't care that he can't sing. And they even find his dance steps quite cool. Though the messages of learning to accept our differences are touched often throughout the film, they never seem heavy-handed or forced. Through his new friends, Mumble learns about the "aliens with front-facing eyes" whose giant ships are over-fishing the Antarctic waters. Mumble sees the opportunity of striking a deal with the destructive invaders as a way to prove to his fellow Emperors that despite his physical differences, he's really just like them. The environmental messages explored seem a bit overt at times especially during the film's third act. But in a penguin's environment, nature is most important.

The visuals in Happy Feet are absolutely amazing. Some of the best of any animated feature. I seem to say this with each subsequent animated release, but as computer speeds increase, innovative filmmakers continue finding ways to wow us with the technology. Every feather on each penguin's body seems to be independently animated, giving a truly lifelike quality to the characters while providing creative camera movements not available in real life.

John Powell's soundtrack is guaranteed to have your toes tapping on the floor if not your entire body dancing in the aisles. Classic songs from yesteryear are given a much-welcomed update in the form of some creative mash-ups, and a few new songs make a rousing debut - including The Song of the Heart by Prince that plays as the credits roll.

The individual elements of the film are clearly the product of a team of filmmakers on top of its game. But great effects, top-notch voice work and a spectacular score aside, Happy Feet works primarily because George Miller knows the importance of great storytelling. His previous scripts, including the Babe movies, Mad Max 1 and 2, and even Lorenzo's Oil, demonstrate his knowledge of the power of story. With Happy Feet he continues the legacy. He's created a wonderful tale sure to entertain audiences of all ages. But it's important to know if you've youngsters in tow, that the emotions explored are real, including some seriously perilous moments as our heroes come under attack by Leopard Seals and Killer whales.


DVD

DVD Details:

Screen formats: Widescreen Anamorphic 1.85:1

Subtitles: English, French, Spanish

Language and Sound: Closed Captioned; English: Dolby Digital 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access.

* Deleted Scenes
o Mumble meets a blue whale (03:17) - with introduction by director George Miller
o A Happy Feet Moment (0:28)
* Featurettes:
o Dance Like a Penguin: Stomp to the Beat (5:20)
o I Love to Singa (8:06) - 1936 Warner Bros. Cartoon
* Trailers:
o Original theatrical trailer for Happy Feet.
* Music Videos -
o Hit Me Up by Gia
o The Song of the Heart - by Prince
* DVD-Rom

Number of discs: - 2- Keepcase Packaging{pgomakase}

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