I was really enjoying Happy Feet until the last half an hour. At that point, the film becomes an incomprehensible, insane mess that inverts all of the values of the first part and leaves all logic or cohesiveness behind. Honestly, up until that point, I was really enjoying it.
It really is too bad because there is so much to praise in the first part of Happy Feet. The story may be fairly standard (you know the drill - outcast teaches community to embrace his difference) but it is executed so well. The animation is gorgeous. The images are painted with a true sense of beauty. The film makers arenít just going for realism (like the awkwardly photo images of Shrek or The Polar Express. They seem to want to create a truly beautiful world. There are so many pretty frames in this film that itís a joy to behold on the big screen.
Then there is the fun conceit of the film which is that the penguins all sing. The flightless birds each have a ďheart songĒ and they sing them back and forth to each other. They each do renditions of pop songs and itís a hoot. Itís not executed as well as in Moulin Rouge! but itís still a tonne of fun. I especially loved their rendition of Princeís Kiss.
Happy Feet has a great message in it. Actually it has two. First there is the obvious one about how diversity is a good thing and the true villains of society are those who use reason-less religion/superstition to condemn those who are different. This is a great lesson for young ones and it never gets tired. Then there is the more subtle notion in the background of the film about how humans are destroying our environment. Also important for the kiddies (and their parents) to hear over and over again.
I also appreciated that the makers of Happy Feet didnít feel the need to have each character be an animated copy of some flavour-of-the-week celebrity who is only there to sell tickets. Most animated films (see Over the Hedge) these days are really more about promoting celebs than about telling a story or writing good characters. Happy Feet is closer to the work of Pixar which focuses on character first.
Everything was going great until things went horribly wrong.
The ending of Happy Feet is horrible in many, many ways. First of all it makes not logical sense. Obviously, the film makers had no idea how to end their frozen opus. However, I canít imagine how they came up with this garbage. It is one of the unlikeliest plot developments that I have seen on screen in a long time, and I saw Snakes on a Plane.
I canít swallow that it could be remotely reasonable for the plot to end up like this. I know a film about singing and dancing penguins requires you to suspend disbelief but all that fits into the cohesive story they are weaving. The stuff at the end is one the one hand silly and on the other completely incongruent in theme and character with the rest of Happy Feet.
The ending betrays all that was good about the rest of the film. It twists the values back on itself. If I didnít know better I would suspect it was subliminal Scientology recruiting. Suffice it to say it involves contact with aliens. Whatever it was it was a mess and it pissed me off because it ruined a perfectly good film.
Happy Feet is beautiful to watch on the big screen but the ending is so silly and/or frustrating that saying that paying full price is a bit of a stretch. In fact, you may just want to skip it all together so that you donít have to have all the build up and then suffer from such a horrible finish.