"Happy Feet" is an animated film about a young Emperor penguin, Mumble, who, unlike his fellow penguins, cannot sing. He can, however, tap dance like Fred Astaire, a unique talent which earns him even more scorn from the stuffy penguin elders. So our outcast hero leaves his colony, finds some friends from another penguin species, and embarks on a journey to uncover the mystery of why all the colony's fish are disappearing. I probably had a delirious, childish smile plastered on my face throughout "Happy Feet." The characters are delightful. Mumble's newfound amigos, for instance, are a quintet of comical penguins whose Mexican-American accents, silly antics and saucy quips are frequently hysterical. There's also the great guru, a kind of polygamous penguin cult leader with a seductive Barry White-like voice who wears a plastic six pack holder around his neck, allegedly a sacred talisman from the "aliens." The fun twists on classic pop songs, the impressive dance numbers, together with astounding animation and sound, all made me forget that I was watching a cartoon. Unlike the documentary "March of the Penguins," which shamelessly exploits the cuteness of the flightless birds, "Happy Feet" attempts to convey a simple and clear message about the environment. Although the ending is schmaltzy, this is entertainment with a conscience that's highly entertaining.
1/2( Sherwin Das )
Just when I had given up on CGI animation films, along comes "Happy Feet." This thoroughly delightful movie is directed by George Miller who made the excellent "Babe" films and who brings the same wonderful mix of innocence, off-beat humor and downright nightmare to the story. "Happy Feet" is about an Emperor penguin called Mumble (Elijah Wood) who is an outcast in his pious, God-fearing colony because he can't sing. All he can do is joyfully tap dance. After falling in love with husky-voiced Gloria (Brittany Murphy) and humiliating himself in front of her, he decides to leave the colony. He falls in with a group of Rockhop-per penguins who are in awe of his tap-dancing skills and with their help sets out to solve the mystery of why all the fish have disappeared (his fellow penguins believe they have to pray even harder to bring them back). "Happy Feet" is probably the best animated film I've seen since "Finding Nemo." It's a bit overbearing at times with the song and dance routines, but on the whole it's a near perfect film. I was actually shocked by how dark it briefly turns toward the end. But this is a family film with a truly heartfelt message and it sure makes you want to tap your feet.
( Tim Ochser )
The Science of Sleep
"The Science of Sleep" is French director Michel Gondry's second feature following his wonderfully imaginative "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." As in that film, "The Science of Sleep" allows Gondry to enter the mind of his main character and vividly lay it bare for us to see. This time the director's muse is Stephane (Gael Garcia Bernal), a young artist who moves to Paris following the death of his father and falls in love with his neighbor Stephanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg). Stephane is a sensitive soul with a hyperactive imagination. When his dream life starts to spill over into his real life, he has trouble managing the emotions that are unleashed. What's unique about "The Science of Sleep" is that the effects are intentionally low-tech. Gondry combines stop-motion animation with materials found in a children's arts and crafts class to decorate Stephane's dreams. I didn't like "The Science of Sleep" as much as "Eternal Sunshine" because it feels somehow incomplete and because I found it difficult to watch a man-child for 105 minutes. Perhaps I need to find my own inner child. But like all of Gondry's work, the film is visually extraordinary and like nothing else you're likely to see at the cinema
(Sherwin Das )
DOA: Dead or Alive
There isn't much one can say about a movie like "DOA." It's mindless, exploitative and totally shallow 's and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The story is based on an "Enter the Dragon" premise of several elite martial arts fighters being invited to participate in a contest called Dead or Alive on an exotic island. Three female rivals 's Kasumi (Devon Aoki), Tina (Jaime Pressly) and Christie (Holly Valance) 's become bosom buddies in the process. Kasumi wants to find out what happened to her brother who died the previous year in the same contest. Tina wants to prove that she's more than just a wrestling superstar and Christie wants to rob a safe. "DOA" is almost gleefully silly in every way, from the video game- style abuse of the laws of physics to the romantic sub-plots involving the three heroines. It's basically like "Charlie's Angels" but considerably sillier. It's almost impossible not to be charmed by Devon Aoki's sculptural face or Holly Valance's snaggle teeth. Look at the girls go. Look at all the butts they kick. Look at all the quips they flick out of their pouting lips. "DOA" won't exactly change your life but it will sure put a dumb smile on your face.
( Tim Ochser )