Mumble is an emperor penguin with a problem: he can’t sing like the other penguins. Indeed, his singing is so bad, he’s practically an outcast. Also, he has this funny thing going on with his feet, and this is causing all sorts of upset to his parents, and the tribal elders. The elders cast him out, saying his destruction of their traditions is what’s responsible for their “god” witholding fish; he finds a group of smaller penguins and with them goes and finds the cause of the lack of fish, the “aliens”, penguins with flabby faces, no beaks or feathers (i.e. humans). The humans see how cute his dancing is, they think the penguins are trying to send them a message, see the error of their ways, and they move on banning fishing in the Antarctic zone, and all’s well that ends well.
This movie takes anthropomorphism to such extremes, it’s nearly ridiculous.
The emperor penguins have these broad stereotype-based accents – “Memphis” is an Elvis, opening with “Heartbreak Hotel”. “Norma Jean” is Marilyn Monroe. The crabby eldest-elder sounds like Liam Neeson in that Irish movie (:P). The badass leopard seal has a vaguely threatening east german accent. The gulls sound like Italian mobsters (here’s lookin’ at you, De Niro). The small penguins are latino through and through (I called them the party penguins). The elephant seals have such broad Aussie accents, you wonder if they’re going to ask about prawns on the barbie next.
Don’t even get me started on the plot. There’s the childhood-friend-turned-romantic-interest, the guilty-father, the hero’s sojurn through adversity; so many stereotypes, it’s like they threw the book of kid’s movie plots against the wall and saw what stuck. There’s a song-and-dance number every five minutes, there’s no less than 4 occasions where they demonstrate technical wizardry in “chase” like scenes, especially penguins sliding across the ice, for no discernable plot reason what so ever. The denouement is about as fast as it takes to read the final sentence of my plot summary. Characters are foreshadowed as recurring villans, but never show up again. And how the hell does a penguin floating on the seas end up missing all of the southern hemisphere and land on a beach of Florida?!
And yet, despite all this, it’s a cute kids movie; that’s one undeniable aspect. The animation is excellent, the character designs cute and the whole package is served up with a Disney-esque sugary sweetness to it that can’t be denied. Robin Williams shines, injecting some much needed humour into the movie. You can’t really fault the song-and-dance numbers because they’re well executed, and for the most part enjoyable.
Best animated feature, though? No way. Hoodwinked deserved that by a country mile (though I think that was a 2005 release in the States).