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Happy Feet

Happy Feet is a perfect example of a good concept that never quite figured out where it was going — the story is uneven at best and virtually falls apart near the end. And there's really not even that much story to begin with; far more of the movie is dedicated to song-and-dance sequences than to plot and character development. Which isn't that surprising, considering that everything in Happy Feet revolves around the idea that each Emperor penguin must discover his or her "heart song" — the one tune that best expresses the singer's true self and will, eventually, help him or her find a mate. Woe to poor little Mumble (voiced by Elizabeth Daily as a chick and Elijah Wood as a young adult), then; he can't sing a note to save his life. The fact that he can dance like Savion Glover (who choreographed Mumble's moves) doesn't seem to impress anyone — in fact, it marks him as an outcast. It's not until Mumble meets some blustering little Adelie penguins, led by amorous Ramon (Robin Williams), that he gains the confidence to make it clear how he feels about best friend/love interest Gloria (Brittany Murphy). But the colony elders are still convinced that Mumble's heretical dancing is to blame for the fish shortage that's leaving everyone hungry… which is when Happy Feet loses whatever logic it had and devolves into a confusing jumble of earnest environmentalism and head-scratching plot turns. The kid viewers the movie is aimed at probably won't notice or care, but any adults along for the ride may find themselves a bit nonplussed. It just goes to show that the folks over at Pixar know what they're talking about when they say that story is king: Cute penguins and toe-tapping tunes are all well and good, but it's knowing what to do with them that matters. Warner Home Video brings Happy Feet to DVD in a fairly unimpressive package, considering it was a blockbuster and an Oscar winner. The anamorphic transfer (2.40:1) looks great, and the Dolby Digital 5.1 EX audio is impressive (Spanish and French 5.1 EX tracks are also available, as are English, French, and Spanish subtitles), but the list of extras is unexpectedly short. There are two bonus animated sequences that didn't make it into the final movie — a strange, brief scene in which Mumble gets knocked around like a soccer ball and a longer bit that features the late Steve Irwin as an albatross who gives Mumble some advice — plus a dance lesson featurette hosted by Glover, music videos for Gia's "Hit Me Up" and Prince's "The Song of the Heart," and the 1936 cartoon short "I Love to Singa" (clearly chosen for its striking thematic similarity to the movie) about a little owl whose proclivity for jazz singing outrages his classical music-loving father. Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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