Massawyrm Cuts Off George Miller's HAPPY FEET And Tries To Feed Them To Him!!
Published at: Nov. 14, 2006, 7:11 p.m. CST by merrick
Hola all. Massawyrm here.
Oh God, I don’t even know where to start. Really, I don’t. I don’t want to review this. I don’t want to deal with it. I mean, I do. I can’t stop thinking about it and thus I have to put something down on paper in hopes of excising it from my skull. But I don’t want to deal with all the bullshit. You see, a while ago I reviewed a little film called “The Ant Bully” and man did that create a shit storm. Right wing blogs linked to it. Talkbackers (who hadn’t even seen it) cried foul and called me McCarthywyrm. I received e-mails, lots of e-mail, going both ways (even from people who made the film.) It was not a pleasant experience.
But for those that remember that debacle – especially those with selective memory – I simply thought the film was bizarre and somewhat subversive. But never dangerous. Never offensive. Because those are words I reserve for very special films that really, truly, shatter the barrier of what is appropriate in a kids film. Those are words I reserve for films like Happy Feet. And I don’t want to review it. So let’s just talk. Let’s have a conversation about children’s films and why, just why, a film like Happy Feet is something you need to really consider whether or not to show to your kids.
Now before you even get fucking started laying into me for using words like "Dangerous" and "offensive", lets get one thing straight. I KNOW you think it’s a kids film about a penguin who dances in a society that sings. I get that. The trailers have done their job convincing you of this, and the immense cross-promotion advertising a dozen different products and companies has ensured that each and every one of your children absolutely MUST SEE IT this weekend. Or they’ll cry. Warner Bros. is counting on this. All of the cross-promoted products are counting on this. A lot of money and time has gone into selling this as a dancing penguin movie.
And yes, half of it is. That part I’m fine with. It gets old really quick and is poorly conceived, but there’s nothing wrong with the 45 or so mindless minutes of singing penguins. It’s the parts they’re not showing you, the other 45 minutes, that disturbs me. In fact, give me a copy of this film and version of Final Cut Pro and I will cut you a two-minute trailer that will make you shit your pants and give your kids nightmares for a week. Because. This. Movie. Is. Fucked. Up.
I do not say that lightly. It is fucked right the hell up.
Look, I’m sick as shit of the “kids are stupid” argument. People who make that argument either A) Don’t have kids or B) never worked with them. Kids are not stupid. Rather, they’re little sponges that absorb every little piece of information that their rapidly forming brains can get a hold of. When they don’t understand something, they simply make up an explanation. Pure and simple. But kids will watch anything! Especially if it’s animated! Sure they will. We did too. Hell, I remember boring Sunday mornings when I’d watch Hello Kitty in Spanish because it was the only animated show on. I mean, why watch the news when you’ve got Hola Gato! En Espanol? But just because I didn’t speak the language didn’t mean I couldn’t figure out what was going on.
And stories have always, first and foremost, been great metaphors. Hell most of the ancient written word we have, and certainly everything of it we’ve been taught, is metaphor. The works of Aesop, the allegories of Plato, even the lessons of Christ, Buddha and Lao-Tsu are all lessons wrapped in simple stories. And these lessons become so steeped in our culture that they become part of our vernacular. You don’t say “Boy that guy is so bitter that he didn’t get what he wanted that he’s bad mouthing it.” You say It’s sour grapes.
You know exactly what I’m talking about. Now think back. When was the last time you heard the story of The Fox and the Grapes? Second? Maybe third grade? But it sure left an impression, didn’t it?
Well what if I were to tell you that the overall metaphor, that the overall themes of Happy Feet are that of A) there is nothing wrong with individuality, that society can actually benefit from it, B) the ecological devastation unknowingly caused by man on the environment and the need to stop it, C) the evils of keeping animals in captivity, D) it being okay to defy your elders for the sake of “the truth” and, oh yeah, E) The evils of religion. Wait, what? Back up a second. Did I read that right? The…evils…of religion?
Okay, here’s the part where you tell me I’m crazy. Here’s the part you think I’m reading too much into a fucking kids movie. Here’s the part where I politely tell you to fuck right the hell off. Because I’ve actually seen it and that is EXACTLY what this movie is about. Happy Feet is a film about the dangers and evils of religion in the face of open-minded liberal thought.
Okay, okay. Wait a minute. Let me take that back. I don’t want to say Liberal thought. Because I know a lot of liberals. I have many great friends who are liberal, who hold very well thought out, respectable beliefs. Calling this Liberal is like those people that call Pat Robertson a conservative. Real conservatives cringe at that statement. No, he is an ultra right wing Christian neo conservative who teaches the word of Christ out of one side of his mouth and then calls openly for the public assassination of the democratically elected leader of a sovereign nation out of the other. No. Real conservatives stand as far away from that scary goon as humanly possible. Happy Feet is the Liberal Pat Robertson. Happy feet is liberal like that unwashed hippie wearing the Look to the skies T-shirt that climbs and handcuffs himself to a tree to prevent someone from knocking down a forest on their own land. It’s the kind of liberal Ann Coulter paints every liberal as. That’s closer to the kind of liberal who wrote this half-baked, poorly constructed piece of ultra-hippie, atheist, eco-extremist garbage.
Yeah. I fucking said it.
Now here’s the thing. I have no qualms about any theme whatsoever in mature films. Art is art. I might think a particular theme is wrong, but I certainly won’t say it doesn’t belong in film. And I don’t object to any of the above themes being introduced to children. If a parent believes that their child should grow up someone free of the constraints of religion, believing that any and all spiritual individuals are dogmatic, controlling fools – then God bless ‘em. That’s America. If that’s what you want to teach your child, you are more than free to do so. And I’ll back up your right to do so 100%.
However, and here’s the big however, I do not, do not, DO NOT, agree that it is in any way a good idea to discuss such radical ideas in an animated film and then sell that film simply as a harmless, singing and dancing Penguin extravaganza. It’s like March of the Penguins only animated, right?
Go ahead kids, it’s only Kool-Aid.
No. No it’s not. Now, if the film was very much presenting itself as what it is, without any form of deception, I wouldn’t have problem one with it. Except that it’s pretty boring. That’s a problem. And if I were to review this film, I would tell you just how mind numbingly boring it is and that after about 10 minutes of old top 40 songs sung by penguins, you’ve pretty much gotten over it. Wow, an animated Moulin Rouge that’s not nearly as entertaining. Wonderful.
So let me take a poll. Raise your hand if you know that this film is about a dancing penguin. Okay, all of you. Now keep it raised if you know that said dancing penguin gets kicked out of his community for dancing rather than singing. Okay, slightly less than before. Good, good. Not too many spoilers in the trailer. Now keep your hand raised if you know that said penguin is kicked out of the community by the town elder for Heresy against the Great Penguin in the Sky.
Huh? None of you? Really? You didn’t know that they ask him to recant his belief in aliens and his belief that it’s okay to dance despite being against the ways taught to the people by the Great Penguin in the Sky? What? You think I’m making that up? Think again. They never use the word Heresy and I believe the word they used was “Renounce” not “Recant.” But the context is about as plain as day.
You see, the penguins are starving. Almost to death. After talking to a predator sea bird that tries to eat him, our hero, Mumble, hears that there are aliens that abduct birds, probe them, then leave bright yellow tags on their legs to remind them of their abduction. Mumble believes every word of it and realizes that this must be what’s happening to all the fish. When the town elder accuses Mumble of being the reason the fish have gone away (because they are obviously being punished by the Great Penguin in the Sky for Mumble’s sacrilegious dancing) Mumble reveals his belief that aliens are taking away all the fish. This causes a hysterical screaming fit in which the town elder demands that Mumble renounce what he has just said or he will be banished, lest the town suffer the wrath of the Great Penguin in the Sky. When his father begs him to renounce what he’s said, Mumble refuses and is banished from Penguin society.
Still not making up a single word.
So Mumble decides he is going to find the Aliens, ask them to stop taking the fish and prove to all the Penguins back home that their religion is wrong and his beliefs are correct. So he goes to enlist the help of a charlatan mystic with a sacred necklace (a set of plastic 6-pack rings.) The one thing I found clever in this film was this character – a character who spends half the film choking. Named Lovelace. Cute. A porn reference in a kids film. Nice touch. Well hidden and the kids DEFINITELY won’t get it. Hell, most adults won’t. Now, of course since Lovelace can’t get the “necklace” off, Mumble has to take him along to ask the Aliens for help.
But don’t worry kids, this is just the tip of the ecological Iceberg. There’s plenty more eco-commentary to be had. But for the sake of speeding along a far too lengthy commentary already, let me just hit the highlights of relative insanity.
- Mumble discovers an abandoned fishing town loaded with pollution.
- Mumble tries to stop a giant fishing ship from taking thousands of fish and is forcefully removed from the net with a hook.
- Mumble chases said ships to tell them to stop
- Mumble ends up in sea world where he slowly begins to go crazy and hallucinate in one of the single most disturbing, depressing series of events I’ve seen in a kids film since the bullet to the back of the head in Old Yeller. He loses his mind, his personality and is trapped with a bunch of spaced out, mindless penguins, while he stares blankly at his own reflection.
- Mumble begins to dance, catching the attention of all of Sea World.
- Mumble appears back home with a homing beacon attached to his back. He begins to frantically tell the people that the aliens are coming and the only way to get them to stop taking the fish is if they all dance together.
- A revolution breaks out as the elders scream about heresy against the Great Penguin in the Sky while the youth begin to dance and sing, awaiting the Alien arrival.
- The Aliens arrive. The penguins dance. The Aliens film it.
- The footage of the dancing penguins goes global, appearing on the news and on the internet. People all delight in watching the penguins dance. That’s when things get really batshit crazy in a bizarre live action black and white montage as evil business proclaims “Why should we stop fishing for some flightless birds at the bottom of the world?” BOOOOOOO! HIIIIIIISSSSSSSS!!!!!!!! and others cry out (at the U.N.) “We must save the Penguins and stop fishing!” Hurray!
- We stop fishing and the penguins rejoice as they greedily devour all the fish they can eat in the repopulated seas.
YAY! Mumble saved the day! He communicated with the Aliens…by dancing…and got them to…stop fishing? Not over fishing, not pollution harming the fish. Fucking fishing. What the fuck? Are you fucking kidding me? Seriously? I thought this movie was all about Mumble trying to find his place in the world and fall in love with a girl who appreciated his dancing. Ummm…oh yeah. That’s about 10 minutes of the movie and the entirety of the advertisements. Apparently Warners couldn’t squeeze in the part about God not really existing and the aliens and the losing your fucking mind at Sea World.
So you thought this was just some film about dancing singing penguins? Suckers. You almost took your kids to an extremist film denouncing religion, obeying your parents and…giggle…fishing. And you know what? I know there’s a whole mess of people out there that can’t wait to see this absolutely bugfuck insane piece of crap now. Because it sounds so crazy it must be seen to be believed. And more power to you. And if you want to take your kids, I fully, 100% support that. You see, I respect anyone who takes the time to educate their children in what they believe the ways of the world are. But this film wasn’t designed, nor advertised, to have parents make that decision for themselves. Because the film plays out like this:
Awww, cute. Singing penguins. Awww, cute. Animated March of the penguins sequences. Great Penguin in the Sky? I guess it’s a Lord of the Rings type thing. Awww, cute, baby penguins trying to sing. Awww, cute, dancing misfit. Ooooh, exciting, predator seabirds trying to attack our baby penguin! Oh, no, it’s funny! The seabird was abducted by aliens. That’s us! Aww, more singing. Awww, more dancing. Aww, they don’t appreciate the dancing. Wait, is this religious? What the hell am I watching? Wait a second…
…this is propaganda.
And you won’t know it until about, oh, twenty, maybe thirty minutes into it. By then it’s too late. The damage is done. The plot has crept up on you and the only solutions are to drag your kids, most likely screaming, out of the theatre – or suffer through every last bit of what I described above. This isn’t irresponsible. That would belie a sense that these folks were haphazard in the construction of this. No, this is deliberate. This has purpose. In fact, the only part of this film that shows any sort of real thought is the plot I listed above. Everything else feels like filler.
The Penguins don’t dance, they just waddle, while singing songs that came and went from the radio long before the audience that wants to see this was born. The romance feels tacked on and superfluous. And the characters never get defined any further than their, occasionally insensitive (ironically), accents. Every last bit of thought about this film went into the execution of the themes and message. This isn’t accidental or well hidden. It’s blatant.
So my advice to those of you who are taking your kids anyway, prepare yourself for some questions. Be ready to explain the difference between faith and dogma when your kid asks why the parents wouldn’t believe Mumble about the aliens and why God said Mumble was bad for dancing. Prepare yourself to answer why it’s bad for all the big dumb predators to try and eat the penguins, but good for the penguins to chase down and kill schools of fish (I can help you with this one. The answer is: because the fish can’t speak, sing or dance – and human nature prevents us from killing or eating anything we consider to be adorable. It’s called Leary’s Law.) And finally, try to come up with an answer as to why it’s okay for the penguins to eat all the fish, but not for us to. Good luck with that one. Try Googling PETA and “Fish Are People Too.” I’m sure they have plenty of great material on the topic.
But aside from the thematic content, I cannot really review this movie. I found it impossible to get past the insanity of it to even determine whether it was well done or not. And the audience reaction was the strangest I’d ever seen at a kids film. The kids were not just quiet, but silent. They didn’t laugh, they didn’t know any of the words to sing along. But they clearly weren’t bored either. There was no idle chatter or kids running in the aisles. I’ve seen that. This was different. This was insane.
I’m certain this movie would probably kick all sorts of ass with a couple of friends and a pile of psilocybin mushrooms. But as a film for the family? Well, you really need to know what you’re getting yourself into. And frankly, I’m getting the feeling that Warner Brothers would prefer you didn’t. Because last I checked, there ain’t a lot of money in films about the evils of religion.
Until next time friends, smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em.