ITV2: Saturday 24 October, 4.35pm
Every penguin has a heart song. Except Mumbles. He’s born with dancing feet but can’t sing for toffee. To win back his place in the colony, he’ll do everything penguinly possible to solve the mystery of the fish scarcity. Is this cute? Are you kidding? It’s March of the Penguins snazzed up with hi-fi show tunes and high-end computer animation.
It’s pulled off with such technical accomplishment, it beat Pixar’s Cars to the best cartoon Oscar. The director is George Miller, the man who brought you Babe. And Mad Max: Fury Road. And if you find it hard to reconcile those two George Millers, consider this. There’s another one, an Australian film-maker called George Miller who’s entirely unrelated to this one.
(Actually, this other one was born in Scotland but brought up in Australia. He made films like The Man From Snowy River and Les Patterson Saves the World. And Andre, about a seal.) The thing about penguins is that they tend to look alike. So the voice casting’s got to be cute, too.
Elijah Wood, the indomitable hobbit Frodo from Lord of the Rings, is Mumbles, while his mum and dad are Nicole Kidman (coming on breathy like Marilyn Monroe) and Hugh Jackman (doing an Elvis impersonation). Robin Williams does something suitably off the wall, twice over actually, since he voices both Lovelace and Ramon.
Like the accents, the music is all over the place: gospel, funk, disco and choral, ebony and ivory. From Stevie Wonder to the Beach Boys. The latter a reminder that if you want cute and clever, hang on for Surf’s Up. And it’s funny, too, which Happy Feet isn’t, not really.
Its deliberate epic quality slows it down while the story – like The Ant Bully – is a bit preachy, making a song and dance about global warming. We humans have always treated the planet with disrepect, but since when were seals monsters of the deep? Still, waddling penguins… what’s not to love?