Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Tuxedo Double Feature: "Happy Feet" and "Casino Royale"

After having read that Fox News condemned "Happy Feet" (dir. George Miller, US, 2006, 108 mins.) as being the "animated 'Inconvenient Truth'" and 'warned' parents that it was an attempt at influencing their children with left-wing propaganda, well, I just HAD to see it, despite my natural inclination to write it off as looking 'cute'. I failed to realize though that George Miller ("Babe") does not pull punches. Yes, it starts off as 'cute'. (I. Hate. Cute.) However, there is a dramatic climax that was eerily disturbing. I found myself so wrapped up in the the world the film created, that at one point, I believed Miller would actually leave us with the nightmare scenario which "An Inconvenient Truth" foretold. Dramatically, the screenplay (by George Miller, Warren Coleman, John Collee and Judy Morris) takes us through nearly every available genre: musical, romantic-comedy, adventure and horror. And it does so in nearly that order, leading us from a kiddie-fied world of cute, waddling bundles of feathers, to a typical 'outcast in love', to thrilling escapes from hawks, lion seals and killer whales, to 'that moment', which I refuse to spoil!

The visuals are simply stunning! There were many moments where I lost sense that it was animated. And, as the film progresses and mixes live action with the CGI-animation, it only reinforces that effect. Yes, the idea of a blue-eyed penguin with just a hint of a bow-tie under his chin was just a bit TOO cute. However, the rest of the characters were closer and truer to their natural forms. The backgrounds were vast and the underwater ballet sequence was spectacular!

The vocal talent varies from good to, well... Robin Williams! He just CRACKED ME UP!! I love his voice work, primarily because I think it is so closely edited that we are spared some of his over-the-top mania that can be annoying. Though he is voicing 'ethnic stereotypes' in his three roles in the film, his sense of wild timing and abandon won me over. The cast includes George Miller regulars: Hugo Weaving, Miriam Margolyes, Magda Szubanski and E.G. Daily, all of whom do recognizable and memorable work. (HOW E.G. Daily has maintained her 'Babe' voice all of these years is sort of amazing!) Anthony LaPaglia and Steve "Crocodile Hunter" Irwin pop up, though unrecognizable, but nonetheless without disruption. The 'star power' of Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, as the precocious penguin's parents, is sort of wasted here, though their opening number is fun. Our hero and his love interest, voiced by Elijah Wood and Brittany Murphy are perhaps the least colorful of the performances.

Musically, it is a mixed bag. Attempting to be sort of an Antarctic "Moulin Rouge" in its mix of popular songs, and maybe only a lyric at a time, the medleys aren't that effective. However, the tap break moments are thrilling, which may have been part of Miller's subliminal point. The little penguin's tapping was done through motion capture by Savion Glover ("Bring in Da Noise! Bring in Da Funk!"), which I did not know until the end credits, though I actually found myself thinking that it looked like his dancing during the film. It is wonderfully executed.

The "Inconvenient Truth" moment during the latter fourth of the film is a bit heavy handed. However, the point is made and considering the visual competition that the message has from the rest of the film, I don't think Miller could have done any less.

There were more HUGE visuals, as well as REAL tuxedos in "Casino Royale" (dir. Martin Campbell, US/UK/Czech Republic, 2006, 144 mins.). I don't usually pop in my two cents on huge blockbusters since there is already so much 'noise' about them out there, but I just have to on this one: Daniel Craig is a HOT 'James Bond'. He suffers nobly and the nearly infamous beefcake shot of his exit from the surf IS all it is cracked up to be! Oh, and Judi Dench ROCKS as 'M'!


Maxxxxx said...

re "Happy Feet": "Wooooooo!"
re "Casino Royale": "Such a pretty bird!"

Reel Fanatic said...

With such a "ringing" endorsement from the enlightened minds at Fox News, I may just have to break down and see Happy Feet, which I've avoided thus far because I'm suffering from penguin overload

Maestas said...

LOVED Daniel Craig as well. Movie was great but could have cut about 15 minutes. Have not seen Happy Feet as I hate the millions of computerized cutesy animal movies that seem to release every week but might have to check out this one.

LOVE the pic of Maxx and the Hideous Holiday Ball of Joy! Ha Ha Ha Ha

Lilla Smutzig said...

I have to say the idea of suffering through Robin Williams and animated animals sounds a lot more tempting after reading this.


Jay, aka The Angry Little Man said...

Hey Lilla,

Well, into everyone's life a little bit of pop-cinema MUST fall! Otherwise, a world filled with Svankmejer is a world filled with... ???