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de-VICE the 3rd

HAPPY FEET movie review

home on da range: 2007
the rambunctious de-VICE philosophy spiel
de-VICE back issues
a quickie with PLAID
a quickie with MR. SCRUFF
HAPPY FEET movie review
TOKYO INTERNATIONAL ANIME FAIR 2007
michael arias on TEKKON KINKREET
DJ KENTARO enters the picture
MAD PROFESSOR huffs and puffs
the de-VICE answer to Tarantino's DEATH PROOF
ZUZUSHI 2 melbourne vs. tokyo
KID CALMDOWN and SLEEPY ROBOT: sydney's coolest djs?
ISNOD is good
J-MACHISMO: top men in Japanese anime cinema
DJ NEO: acid meister
photographic exhibition KEITAI KOUTURE
CAPTAIN AMERICA is dead
IF? Records gets all shameless & impudent
movie review: PAPRIKA
SON OF ZEV: who's your dad?
GOLDIE
GENIUS PARTY: new anime from Studio 4C
RYOJI ARAI: the best kids' book ever made into animation?
does DIGITAL PRIMATE have a siege mentality?
just how sweet is KANDYMAN?
jonathan more on COLDCUT
much ado about BASEMENT JAXX
JEFF MILLS: one man spaceship
from the back of the fridge: SI BEGG
from the back of the fridge: GAIJIN BABY
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by andrez bergen - 2007

HAPPY FEET shakes its tail feather

Director: George Miller.

Voice cast: Elijah Wood, Brittany Murphy, Robin Williams, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman,Hugo Weaving, Anthony LaPaglia.

According to Rules No. 2 and No. 3 of the official Academy Awards regulations, a movie has to have opened in the previous calendar year in a theater in Los Angeles County, Calif., to qualify for Oscar nomination - one rationale as to why neither Paprika nor Tekkon Kinkreet, two superb anime productions released here in Japan late last year, were in contention for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars on Feb. 25.

They would've given the victor at least a run for that golden statuette. Instead, Happy Feet was providential to rub up against some mediocre U.S. fodder in the guise of Pixar's Cars and the Steven Spielberg-produced Monster House.

Not that the Oscar-winning champ wasn't laudable - Happy Feet also snatched-up the BAFTA animation award in London earlier last month, it pipped Casino Royale in its opening weekend at the U.S. box office in November, and the CG animation here is nothing short of stunning.

The narrative revolves around an Antarctic colony of emperor penguins run by withered Noah the Elder (voiced by Hugo Weaving), a leader with all the foresightedness of Captain Ahab, and his team of aged boardroom cronies.

In the movie's opening mating season, two eye-catching, singing penguins named Memphis (Hugh Jackman) and Norma-Jean (Nicole Kidman) - caricatures of Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe - court one another, warble a bit, and eventually lay an egg together.

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What follows has already been given serious treatment in the French documentary, La Marche de l'empereur, and in David Attenborough's Planet Earth series, but is no less touching: while the female goes fishing, the male emperor incubates the egg between his feet for two months, during an exceptionally harsh Antarctic winter.

Disaster befalls Memphis' egg when he is momentarily distracted, and the upshot is the hatching of Mumble (Elijah Wood), a soft-shoe boogie penguin who can't sing at all like his parents or peers, and inadvertently ruptures all the conventions of the cloistered colony.

Forced into exile, Mumble shuffles across Ramon (Robin Williams) and his posse of mambo-swinging amigos, smaller Adelie penguins with a penchant for stones that borders on the homicidal.

Our hero also meets their self-proclaimed oracle, Lovelace (voiced by Williams as well), an impresario exuding alternate shades of Isaac Hayes and Barry White, who's endowed with a sacred necklace that is, in fact, a plastic six-pack ring.

It's up to Mumble to discover himself, find his feet, and along the way solve the mystery of a dearth of fish in the oceans...set amidst a flurry of avian song-and-dance reconsiderations, some of which succeed - "Boogie Wonderland" and "My Way" are the stand-outs - while others fall by the artistic wayside.

Racial stereotypes don't help, and somewhat surprisingly, Jackman and Kidman aren't able to pull off their joint homage to Presley and Monroe.

Conversely, Williams is a revelation in both his roles, there are some choice vignettes from Anthony LaPaglia (as the leader of the mafialike gulls) and the late Steve Irwin (an ocker elephant seal), while - on a visual level - the brilliant rollercoaster avalanche scene makes all the song-and-dance redundant.

It's through knowing references to movies like Dirty Dancing, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Dumbo, and Moby Dick, that this movie really is riotous, while a leopard seal attack that comes straight after Mumble's botched graduation ceremony is right up there with the suspense and horror of the shark attacks in Jaws, sans John Williams' score.

Less crooning and more carousing would've made the film perfect.

On a sublimely subversive final note, Happy Feet may have been produced with (mostly) American big bucks - hovering around the US$100 million mark - but this is, beneath it all, one very Australian film.

To begin with, it was cobbled together by iconic Australian production outfit Kennedy Miller, in conjunction with Sydney-based animation studio Animal Logic.

A large chunk of the voice cast are Aussie actors: think Jackman, Kidman, Weaving, LaPaglia, Irwin, Magda Szubanski and Nicholas McKay.

Finally, Miller - the director, cowriter and coproducer - also hails from the antipodes.

Bonza.

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