Set in the strange and beautiful world first explored in the 2005 documentary MARCH OF THE PENGUINS, George Miller's HAPPY FEET tells the story of Mumble (Elijah Wood), a tone-deaf Emperor Penguin who is unable to sing his "heart song," the ritual required to win a mate (in this case, his beloved Gloria, voiced by Brittany Murphy). The fact that Mumble is a terrific tap dancer is completely lost on his tribe, and he spends a rather lonely adolescence as an outsider. His hero's journey involves both discovering his own innate coolness, and, more importantly, solving the mystery of the dwindling supply of edible fish in the ocean. As the latter plot takes over, the film shifts from a touching story of self-belief, to a more urgent ecological plea, but all the themes converge when Mumble's special talent saves the day.
The film is a triumph of striking CGI animation, with every frame celebrating the vast and breathtaking purity of Antarctica's tundras, snowscapes, icebergs, and waters, as well as its wildlife. The musical numbers--drawing on pop hits of the last 30 years--were choreographed by Savion Glover, and revel in the joyful if slightly limited physicality of the bottom-heavy penguins. While some scary scenes of predation may be too much for very young children, this is an inspiring tale that is suitable for the whole family.