Monday, April 07, 2008

In which tapdancing, existentialism & penguins collide

Why are Calvinists against sex standing up?

Because it’s dangerously close to dancing.

At the weekend Rosa and I watched Happy Feet, the heartwarming animation about a penguin who can’t sing but can tapdance. Now this seems like a pretty thin premise to base a 90 minute film on and to be frank it is. The film meanders it’s way through some rather boring singing, pointless chases and pretty dull digressions. My mate Martin said that he felt it gave him some pretty good insight into autism and I can see that. The main character Mumble has a birth defect that hinders his communication with others, apparently emperor penguins mating rituals consist of elaborate singing of popular music a la Moulin Rouge, and the film charts his progress in making others understand his condition and eventually teaching them his form of communication. Of course this means at the end all the other penguins can sing and dance which means that not only is Mumbles a cripple he’s given away the only thing that makes him special. To be fair there are some laughs from Robin Williams South American penguins, the computer animation is fantastic and I quite enjoyed the emperor penguins Calvinist leader who reminds me of the joke at the start but it’s not enough to compete against stuff like The Incredibles or Finding Nemo.

What would have improved the film immensely would have been to end it around ten minutes earlier than they did. At this point Mumbles has been captured and put into a zoo. We watch as he first loses hope and then his mind, he begins repeatedly running against the wall in a scene of mad despair. As the broken penguin bangs his head against the wall again and again the scene shifts to a view of the country, then the world and finally to the uncaring void of space. The End!

Now I understand that this may seem a bit of a depressing way to end a childrens film but this isn’t just because of the pleasure I would gain from watching hundreds of little brats greeting their wee hearts out as they leave the picture house although that’s definitely a consideration. The reason for ending it here would be not only that it makes it a better film but that it would teach the bairns early on what their life is going to be like. After taking the child to see the film I picture the loving parent explaining to them that they are that penguin and it is their head that will banging against the wall for the next seventy years. Nothing like crushing their expectations early if you ask me.

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