Yesterday, my kids had a half day of school (why not the Wednesday before Thanksgiving instead of after Thanksgiving? It is a question parents are still asking around the school district). Because of this short break, I thought how fun it would be to take them to see the new movie “Happy Feet.” The trailers all promised a toe-tappin’ good time. Hah.
I have no problem with a writer/author/director using certain forms of media as a platform from which to spew his or her various political/social/economic beliefs and agendas. I DO have a problem with that person trying to cram that down the throat of millions of innocent, unsuspecting, sponge-like children around the world. Happy Feet offended me to the bottom of my toes. My feet were tappin’, alright. They were just tapping in annoyance, followed soon by anger.
The trailers show penguins singing, happy, playful, intimating that this one lowly little penguin will change his world forever by searching for his “heartsong.” Great, right? Wrong. It quickly turns into one of the most blatant anti-establishment movies I have ever endured.
Humans are called “aliens” and the only visions we are given as the audience of these horrible, frightening creatures is of a bird with a yellow plastic marker attached to its leg. Then another penguin shows up, choking to death from one of those six-pack can holders around his neck. This choking goes on for an unbelievable 20 minutes. Twenty minutes of a brutal, vicious, impending death scene….IN A CHILDREN’S MOVIE!!! I kept watching my children’s faces and they were covered with fear and anxiety as they watched this penguin struggle to breath and, in the end, try to kill himself because he can’t take the pain anymore. When the penguins do find the mean, nasty aliens “who just don’t care about us,” (quote from the movie), it is in an industrialized town with menacing, rusted out equipment, broken windows, trash-strewn lawns, and circular saw blades with horrifyingly sharp teeth, all set in a dark, very gloomy, terrifying setting. Again…IN A CHILDREN’S MOVIE.
I went online this morning and read some reviews. Most were inane, repeating the same words of praise they used for any other animated movie out in the last 10 years. However, I found one that identified what the others omitted. The Washington Post, generally a more liberal newspaper, hit the nail on the head this time:
THE FAMILY FILMGOER ® by Jane Horwitz at the Washington Post (taken from www.fandango.com)
Happy Feet veers off-course about three-quarters of the way through its rather long-feeling 98 minutes. It turns from being a glorious, funny, adorable computer-animated penguin musical about diversity and acceptance into a screed against human encroachment on their habitat. It feels like two films — one a riotous musical comedy, the other a somber alarm call filled with looming fishing trawlers and ugly debris. Even the more typically ‘toon-ish scary bits — giant leopard seals, killer whales, birds of prey bursting out of the sea and swooping down to get our penguin hero — are highly intensified. (We learn it’s because the fish supply is dwindling.) So is a prolonged subplot in which a penguin nearly asphyxiates as a plastic 6-pack holder tightens on his neck. Happy Feet may be too much for many kids under 7, some under 8. (Know how well your child separates animated fantasy from reality.)… His side adventures among trawlers and in a zoo turn the film very dark before the dawn. Director George Miller also added somber notes to Babe: Pig in the City (G, 1998). In Happy Feet, this keeps the film off-balance.
Ms. Horwitz is absolutely correct: know your kid well. Otherwise, nightmares and questions a 7 or 8 year old is not capable of understanding may arise from those same kids.
I totally understand, believe and support the need to take care of our environment. I also know the Bible clearly states that God gave man dominion over the earth, meaning we are at the very top of the food chain. Nowhere does it say, “unless the animals are furry and cute.” It is an awesome responsibility, one not to be taken lightly. But it is also a reality. They are animals. We are people. Our advancement as humans may change the face of the world, but at the same time, that same advancement allows those directors, writers, and others in Hollywood to drive fancy cars and live obscenely decadent lifestyles within the walls of their multi-million dollar homes. Double standards drive me insane.
So I caution you to do your research before taking your kids to see this movie, and afterwards, use it as a teaching experience…to teach your kids that there are different viewpoints in the world, and that not everything you see, read, hear, is the truth. Hopefully, it will also teach your kids to seek out the truth and do their own research.
Meanwhile, these not so happy feet will use their own medium to proclaim my extreme disappointment and dissatisfaction with this movie.