HAPPY FEET (George Miller). 108 minutes. Opens Friday (November 17). For venues and times, see Movies, page 107. Rating: NN Rating: NN
What do Baz Luhrmann, Luc Jacquet and Al Gore have in common? They made musicals, penguins and the environment hot, all of which converge in Happy Feet, a visually stunning but uneven piece of family animation.
What seems at first to be a Rudolph-style lesson about "being yourself" turns out to be a plea for humankind to stop fucking up, as we have since Bambi was orphaned.
Emperor penguin Mumble (voiced by Elijah Wood) bursts out of his egg all Gotta Dance!; he's Gregory Hines in a fuzzy tux. But he can't sing, the cornerstone of the penguin mating ritual. This upsets Mom (Nicole Kidman) and Dad (Hugh Jackman) and ends his romance with Gloria (Brittany Murphy). Cast out by his clan, Mumble runs afoul of giant fishing ships and is ultimately captured by human "aliens." Will Rudolph's nose - er, Mumble's happy feet - save the day?
The special effects are fantastic, and the flick gets points for including both Stevie Wonder and Prince on the soundtrack. But at 108 minutes it's too long, and the addition of live action near the end makes the CGI story feel less real.
As the credits rolled, all I wanted was for the vocal talent to make a musical. Someone just needs to teach Wood how to tap.