Happy Feet (US - DVD R1)
We take another look at Warner's 'Happy Feet' with this new US DVD release...
Something I can’t figure out is the world’s seemingly new obsession with Emperor Penguins. Ever since the film March of the Penguins was released, everyone has fallen in love with these particular types of penguins practically rejoicing in their every appearance. When March of the Penguins became a runaway success for Warner Brothers, they figured that the next territory to conquer would be the animation block with the rather charming film Happy Feet.
Memphis (Hugh Jackman) and Norma Jean (Nicole Kidman) are anxiously awaiting the birth of their baby. When their child is finally born, Memphis and Norma Jean wonder if something is wrong with poor old Mumble (Elijah Wood) as every other emperor penguin is born with the gift of song. Unfortunately for poor old Mumble, he was born with another gift, the gift of dance (tap dancing in this case). Singing is crucial for our little friends as it is how the males win their female mates. In this case Mumble wants to win the heart of Gloria (Brittany Murphy), a penguin who he seemingly fell in love with the second he came out of his shell.
When a food crisis hits their homeland, the elder penguins blame poor old Mumble and his unique tap dancing abilities on the drought of food banning him from the homeland. Mumble soon runs into a few crazy penguins lead by Ramon (Robin Williams). Seemingly amazed by Mumble and his amazing moves, Ramon invites Mumble to a party where Mumble insists that something is taking the fish. Ramon suggests that Mumble go see the great Lovelace (also voiced by Robin Williams). Mumble isn’t satisfied with the answer Ramon gives and is determined to get the bottom of this mystery. The rest of the film follows Mumble and his new friends as they search for the answer to this question.
I’ll be completely honest and say that Happy Feet was an enjoyable film completely throughout, but I wonder if it’s the type of film I’ll be watching more than a few times over. Sure the film is charming and one can help but become completely immersed in the world of the penguins as they sing, dance and go about their daily lives (not to mention that their also so cute!). The problem I had with the film was the first half of the film was excellent (read four stars, 10/10, etc) as it presented amazing visuals and the type of story that seemed like a modern Rudolph tale with Mumble becoming the outcast of the penguins. The second half seemed like a different film with a few curious sequences. How exactly was Mumble able to get back from the place he was taken (I say place because I don’t want to spoil anything)? These sequences didn’t kill the film per-say, but definitely ruined the potential replay value the film may have had.
Boiled down, Happy Feet is entertaining solely because the film is so much better than the other drab that is put out by competing studios (remember the day when Disney use to make…umm….gasp..GOOD films?). The film tended to fall apart in the end as it tried to make a charming kids film into a film with a serious message. The problem was that I wonder if the main audience for the film, children, will understand the message Warner was trying to get through. I’m sure parents will, but will kids? Probably not, as they’ll be singing all the catchy songs and exclaiming at all the cute penguins. For parents this one gets a 7/10. For kids probably a 9/10 or 10/10.
Arriving with a 2:40:1 widescreen aspect ratio, Happy Feet, like most animated affairs today, looks absolutely amazing throughout. Colour usage was a visual treat with solid whites, blacks and blues popping off the screen into our eyes. Visual experience after visual experience can be found with this transfer. Grain, video noise and edge enhancement is pretty much absent (with only edge enhancement becoming noticeable in some of the brighter sequences). I can only imagine what the HD/BD transfers must look like! Top-notch video quality here Warner!
While not as impressive as the audio here, Happy Feet still sports impressive Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (in English, French or Spanish). Dialogue is crystal clear especially during many of the film’s song sequences. Surround usage was pretty active throughout (check out the sequence where Mumble and Ramon ride down a few hills as an avalanche cashes them). Dynamic Range felt somewhat absent here as I noticed a few discrete effects during the chase sequence with the sea lion and Mumble, but many other potential key sequences felt lost. The score by John Powell felt rather subdued as well (possibly I’m use to his more robust scores like The Bourne Supremacy). Still this is a fine effort by Warner on both fronts.
Warner Brothers has given Happy Feet a DVD with rather few features considering the huge success of the film. First up we have ‘Mumble Meets a Blue Whale’, which was a tribute to the late, great Steve Irwin (who had a cameo in the film as an elephant seal). Here Director George Miller informs us that Irwin originally recorded a voice demo as an albatross that never made the final cut. The scene is fully presented here.
Next up we have ‘A Happy Feet Moment’, which was a short animated feature about two penguins treating each other as soccer balls. Another funny feature follows entitled ‘I Love to Singa’. This eight-minute feature plays off the main plot point in the film, except this time a young owl sings jazz (the rest of the film sings classical music). A short, funny feature that will amuse many.
‘Dance like a Penguin’ is a little feature where choreographer Savion Glover shows us the basics of tap-dancing. After this little workout we’re given two music videos. The first by Gia entitled ‘Hit Me Up’ and the second by Prince entitled ‘The Song of the Heart’. The features are wrapped up with a trailer for the film.
In the end Warner has given their ultra-successful film Happy Feet a somewhat fine DVD. The film is entertaining but seemed to get lost in its own message toward the end. As far as the V/A goes though, Warner has hit a home run with the video and has commendable audio as well. The features are somewhat thin and probably won’t be seen more than once through. When it comes to a purchase, parents already know that they’ll be purchasing this one for the little ones. As far as collectors go, you might want to rent this one before considering a purchase.
Review by Brendan Surpless
Some material may not be suitable for children
Release Date: 27th March 2007
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 EX English, Dolby Digital 5.1 EXFrench, Dolby Digital 5.1 EX Spanish
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Extras: Mumble Meets a Blue Whale, A Happy Feet Moment, Dance like a Penguin, Gia's Hit Me Up, Prince's The Song of the Heart, I Love to Singa
Easter Egg: No
Director: George Miller
Cast: Elijah Wood, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Brittany Murphy, Robin Williams, Hugo Weaving
Length: 108 minutes
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