Michael Medved is just one of several media conservatives to attack Happy Feet for its alleged pro-environmentalist content, claiming that the movie is intended to indoctrinate children. In his USA Today op-ed, Medved also attacked as propaganda the children’s book And Tango Makes Three (Simon & Schuster, June 2005), which is based on the true story of two male penguins at New York City’s Central Park Zoo that hatched and raised a penguin chick named “Tango.”
Here is Michael Medved’s blog in its entirity.
Friday, November 17, 2006
Don’t Be Misled by “Crappy Feet”!
Posted by: Michael Medved at 2:16 AM
Hollywood produces plenty of lousy movies but the releases that bother me most are those that feature false and misleading advertising. The new animated extravaganza “Happy Feet” features some of the most dishonest marketing of 2006, and deserves special condemnation for it mendacious mediocrity.
The film features the voices of A-list Hollywood stars — Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Elijah Wood, Robin Williams—and the trailers and TV ads suggest a fun-for-the-whole-family romp with some of the awe-inspiring, wonder-of-creation views of penguin peculiarities that made “March of the Penguins” one of the top grossing documentaries in history.
While the computer-generated animation often fills the screen with visually spectacular Antarctic vistas, the story and characters will irritate most potential viewers for several reasons:
1) This may be the darkest, most disturbing feature length animated film ever offered by a major studio. At least 80% of the film’s running time shows its penguin characters in pain or danger. Scenes of terrifying leopard seals and killer whales trying to devour the protagonist and his friends are so intense as to guarantee nightmares; the PG rating is a joke since the film is wildly inappropriate for young viewers under seven (and their parents). Rather than sending you out of the theatre with a song in your heart (there’s a big focus in the script on “heart songs”) the movie produces feelings of fright, discomfort, even guilt. The title “Happy Feet,” suggesting a feel-good frolic, could hardly be more deceptive for a deeply ill-considered project that will make most audience members feel gloomier and more depressed than they did when they entered the theatre.
2) The propagandistic theme suggests that the biggest menace for the lovable penguins is the human race — stealing the fish on which the birds depend, or ruining planet earth through pollution and global warming. There’s also scenes of a penguin captured for a zoo and tormented to the point of mental incapacity by unfeeling people Many classic animated films (even “Bambi”, or the recent “Open Season” and “Over the Hedge)” featured the equation animals=good/humans=bad but no movie for kids has gone so far in trying to induce guilt for membership in species homo sapiens.
3) There’s also a bizarre anti-religious bias operating unmistakably and gratuitously in the film. The penguin protagonist (known as “Mumbles Happy Feet”) finds himself harshly treated by the aged leaders of the flock, who worship a false God called “the Great Wind” and decry and persecute anyone who dares to challenge their “sacred” traditions. The voice of Robin Williams (in one of his two parts) also portrays a great religious guru and sage who turns out to be a complete phony, with no special knowledge of any kind. When intrepid penguins finally make contact with the “aliens” (otherwise known as humans) the first menacing structure they see is a church.
4) As in so many other recent films, there’s a subtext that appears to plead for endorsement of gay identity. Mumbles (the voice of Elijah Wood) displeases his parents and the leaders of his community because he’s born different, and makes an impassioned plea that he can’t possibly change – and they should accept him as he is.
Aside from all the politically correct messages, the movie remains singularly depressing, frustrating, scary and disturbing. An ardent love affair is frustrated for no apparent reason, with the main character’s inamorata choosing a crude, fat penguin she cares nothing about and producing many progeny. The movie’s conclusion – with tap=dancing penguins somehow persuading humankind to go to the U.N. (the United Nations Building even makes an appearance) to protect the Antarctic food chain– makes no sense at either the emotional or plot-coherence level.
In short, “Happy Feet” comprises a strikingly downbeat evening (or afternoon) at the multiplex – an appalling waste of both time and money for patrons who will expect a far more cheerful, cold-climate-but-warm-hearted experience. The last time a major studio launched a comparably misleading ad campaign, they tried to sell Clint Eastwood’s “Million Dollar Baby” as a Rocky-in-sports-bra/noble underdog boxing movie— deliberately hiding its intense assisted suicide theme. For “Happy Feet,” they seem to hide the movie’s darker, dysfunctional messages and to ignore its questionable elements for innocent kids.
With this posting, consider yourself warned: “Happy Feet” deserves designation as “Crappy Feet” and counts as one of the biggest disappointment of the onrushing holiday season.
WHAT A HOLY NUTTER!