Recently Rated Movies #34: All-Theatrical Edition

When did fucking penguins take over the world?

I ask this, because I walked out of the theatre after watching Happy Feet swearing that I never needed to see a
fucking tap-dancing penguin again for the rest of my days. I have nothing against tap-dancing -- love Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, Eleanor Powell, Fred Astaire, Gregory Hines, Bill Robinson, the Nicholas Brothers, all of them -- and Savion Glover lends his style to the tappings of the little penguin that can in this film, so that part is just fine. I also have nothing against penguins. I have always championed them, especially in my efforts to get advertisers and animators to finally realize that they don't live at the fucking North Pole... and give bottles of Coke to polar bears, which do live there...

But after Madagascar, where the crack troop of Mission: Impossible-style 'guins were hilarious, and the wrongly-Oscared March of the Penguins, where the emotion-laden birds who do all of their instinctual behavior out of "love" were even more hilarious ("Unfortunately, not all of them will make it..."), I was rather reluctant to hit the screens again for more penguin fare. I was even more reluctant knowing that the movie would be filled with the sort of ridiculous vocal histrionics (singing-wise, that is) that make me avoid things like American Idol, and, hell, the radio altogether. Also, the appearance of the overused Robin Williams in not just one, but possibly three parts just added to the mounting pile of "Reasons not to bother with this." The conceit that penguins sing heartsongs to find their lifemates, and that they reject the talented tapdancing Mumble because he can't sing, which I knew before going in, kind of pissed me off for reasons that I can't really explain. And then I found myself with two hours to kill at the cinema, and without a single other film starting and stopping properly in the time that I had at hand. So, I went in...

So, you take all of these factors, and then you cross them with the sensibilities of the man who made the Mad Max films, George Miller... and it all comes out OK. The things that I thought would bother still did, and kept my final rating for the film down to the "good" level, but what saved it from a lower fate of estimation was the environmental bent of the film, which might seem preachy to cynics and cads, but which suited my own mind just fine. A sense of urgency keeps the film moving along, even when some scenes seem far too stretched out (for a "kids" animated film, this one is surprisingly lengthy -- well past Disney's 80-minute norm), and there are several rousing action sequences of the sort at which Miller famously specializes, most memorably, an attack by a leopard seal in which the fiendish attacker seems far more real than in the similar scenes in March (which I maintain were very poorly constructed for such an "acclaimed" film). The killer whale scene also made me jump here and there, most likely because I was sitting a little too close in the fourth row, which is a bad place for a guy who still gets the spine-tingles from just touching a picture of a shark.

From what I have written, it may seem that I enjoyed the film. And I did, but after almost two hours of annoying singing penguins and then the giant tap-dance finale, I walked out thinking, "Yeah, that's way more than I needed." For me, that's enough with the animated penguins, unless I am checking out The Three Caballeros... or Mary Poppins... or Who Framed Roger Rabbit... or those Bugs Bunny cartoons with that top hat-wearing cutie... or the Toy Story flicks... or that Bloom County Christmas special... or any of the Chilly Willy series...
or finally seeing The Wild... or, well, it could go on for a while. And next year, there will be another animated flick with a surfing penguin called Surf's Up, and I will probably find myself with a little time on my hands, and... Oy! There I will be in the fourth row.

I won't escape those cute little fuckers... ever.

The List:
Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny (2006) - 7; Happy Feet (2006) - 6; Casino Royale (2006) - 7; For Your Consideration (2006) - 6; The Departed (2006) - 8; Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006) - 8; The Fountain (2006) - 6; Stranger Than Fiction (2006) - 6.

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