Movies + tuxedos = good times: Happy Feet hops into theaters with more style than Robbie Ribbit on a blind date (no, not a blind fruit)

Every season of every year comes with its own cute animated kid movie, usually a variation of a used storyline sending a used message. Thus, my expectations were not set very high as my brother and I drove to Happy Feet, this winter’s obligatory cute animated kid movie. The first five minutes of the movie featured some not so greatly animated emperor penguins, singing classics by artists such as Elvis and Queen. As the audience soon discovers, each emperor penguin is born with a unique signing voice and a “heartsong,” which will draw in one’s soul mate. Except, however, for the main penguin character of the movie, Mumble. During the fishing season, his father drops his egg, a mark of bad luck and shame. When Mumble is born, he is the only emperor penguin with no heartsong and no beautiful voice; all he has are feet that won’t stop moving. Why? “Because I’m happy, Dad,” he says. “My feet are happy, too!” Throughout his entire childhood, Mumble is an outsider, ridiculed for his “happy feet,” and through it all, the only thing he wants is to be accepted. Now a teenager penguin, after a long chase with a large sea creature (A walrus? A seal perhaps?), Mumble stumbles upon a group of five penguins of a different species—small, energetic, and dying to learn his dance moves. At this point, the multiple themes of the movie begin to reveal themselves. Mumble, having suffered years of rejection, has finally found people who appreciate him for who he is and a place where he belongs. While he grew up in a community pressuring him to abandon his identity, Mumble holds tight to his true self, even up to the moment when he is banned from the colony. He walks away sadly, saying, “Pa, don’t ask me to change, ‘cause I can’t.” With the “five amigos” by his side, Mumble begins his trek towards discovering the “aliens” (humans), which he believes are the cause of the fish shortage. After days of traveling, facing numerous hardships and dangers on the way, Mumble finds that his alien theory was right when he finds himself following a massive fishing ship. In an attempt to free one of the fish being pulled up in large nets, the oddball penguin is taken by humans and relocated to an aquarium. A clear theme of environmental awareness comes through in these scenes, showing the damage humans can do to the order and beauty of nature. One of Mumble’s friends almost chokes to death from a plastic 6-pack holder around his neck, and the fishing business causes famine among the penguins. When Mumble suddenly rediscovers his happy feet, the visitors at the aquarium crowd around to see a tap-dancing penguin, a phenomenon that ultimately sends Mumble back to his home, with a radar attached to his back. Now under the watch of scientists, he tries to prove once again to his colony that the aliens are the cause of the penguins’ problems. Happy Feet featured too many long singing scenes that really didn’t add to the plot, and there were so many themes that each did not get enough attention. However, there is much to learn from Mumble and his adventures. We can realize that how we treat the people around us is incredibly important, and that we each have a duty to be kind to our fellow beings (human and otherwise), however different they may be. In the end, Happy Feet was a cute animated kid movie. But the wisdom behind it mustn’t go unnoticed. Despite its flaws, this is the kind of movie we need more of—the kind of movie that can pass off as cute and kid-friendly, while still sending the messages this world needs to hear most.