"Happy Feet" clinches the current trend of animated message films that speak for the plight of animals and the ecology. That it does so as a foot-tapping musical with dazzling visuals and social conflict nearly masks the film's obvious debt to "March of the Penguins." In a vast crowd of Emperor Penguins, each has his or her own "heartsong" that they sing in order to discover a mate with whom they harmonize. Norma Jean (Nicole Kidman) finds her counterpart in the "Heartbreak Hotel"-singing Memphis (Hugh Jackman), and the couple produce a son named Mumble (Elijah Wood). An enormous problem emerges when the community discovers that Mumble can't sing a note, even if he can tap-dance like nobody's business. In spite of his love for the talented singer Gloria (Brittany Murphy), Mumble abandons his flock and joins up with a group of short Latino penguins called the Adelie Amigos that appreciate his height and natural dance ability. Mumble and his pals survive attacks from sea lions and killer whales, but it is mankind's ruthless fishing around their home of Antarctica that threatens to wipe out all of the area's wildlife. Mumble must go on a personal journey to bring the plight of the penguins to the world.
Rated PG. 87 mins. (B) (Three Stars)