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|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir George Miller|
scr Warren Coleman, John Collee, George Miller, Judy Morris
voices Elijah Wood, Robin Williams, Brittany Murphy, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Hugo Weaving, Magda Szubanski, Miriam Margolyes, Anthony LaPaglia, Steve Irwin, Fat Joe, Chrissie Hynde
release US 17.Nov.06, UK 8.Dec.06
06/Australia Warner 1h48
I gotta be me: Mumble tries to sing
An epic journey of both self-discovery and saving the world, this animated feature by George Miller (Babe) feels like the cheerful lovechild of Moulin Rouge and March of the Penguins. While it's loaded with engaging humour, thrilling action and strong messages, it's also long and corny.
Mumble (voiced by Wood) has grown up as an outsider in his colony of emperor penguins in Antarctica. His mother (Kidman) and tentative girlfriend (Murphy) accept the fact that he dances, rather than singing trashy pop tunes like everyone else; his father (Jackman) and the colony's elders want him to stop being so different. Driven from the crowd, he travels across the ice, meeting a group of lively adelie penguins, led by the rambunctious Ramon (Williams), who appreciate his talent. With them he decides to confront the "aliens" who are depleting their food sources.
During his quest, Mumble encounters lots of bigoted emperor penguins, a vicious sea lion and some thuggish birds, but the real villains are the humans who over-fish the seas and jeopardise the balance of life. This theme becomes extremely strong in the film's final act, swelling up to make an impressive point without getting preachy about it. It helps that the overall tone is footloose and wacky, with constant music, lots of attitude and extremely silly characters.
The animation is spectacular, with a realistic design that sometimes looks like actual photography. The animals all look like the real thing, only subtly tweaked to make the characters more identifiable, although everything they do (and of course say) is completely humanised. The script is written and voiced for maximum humour value, and it definitely keeps a smile on our face as these spirited creatures wiggle and dance and sing and slide and swim.
Along the way, Miller blends various genres--quest epic, environmental polemic, romantic comedy, raucous musical, coming-of-age drama. And it's not always seamless. But it's a nice surprise when things turn very dark turn at one point, adding a punchy depth that's lacking in most animated features. Especially ones that are as wonderfully silly as this one gets.
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© 2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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