Penguins are the new dogs. Not since the heyday of dog movies like Benji and Lassie has one species won over the hearts of so many. March of the Penguins was a left field hit last year and an R-rated parody of that movie, Farce of the Penguins, is set to be released soon. The little furry birds have recently appeared in Madagascar, the 3-2-1 Penguins series and even something called Penguins Behind Bars. Everybody loves penguins, but will they love penguins who sing and dance? Mad Max director George Miller is counting on it.
Miller’s latest film is Happy Feet, an animated film about a community of Emperor Penguins and one tap dancing misfit baby penguin who doesn’t quite fit in with the pack. With voice talent from an all-star cast (headlined by Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Elijah Wood and Robin Williams) the movie dispenses with the easy morality of most animated films digging a little deeper to explore the consequences of conformity and discuss important environmental concerns.
That may sound dull, but the movie is anything but. Miller’s stylish movie is jam-packed with music—Emperor penguins use heart songs to attract mates—and some first rate tap dancing that would make Sammy Davis Jr. proud. Younger kids may find one or two of the set pieces a little too intense. A chase scene with Mumbles the baby penguin on the run from a toothy seal lion is scary, but no more extreme than many of the real-life nature scenes in March of the Penguins.