Happy Feet George Miller

Though a certain French documentary firmly wedged penguins into the public consciousness it’s this animated extravaganza that uses them to the fullest advantage. It begins innocently enough with emperor penguin parents Memphis and Norma Jean (Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman), who are disturbed to discover that their son, Mumble, lacks the vocal skills to sing with the rest of his kind. He can, however, dance up a storm, a skill that more or less drives him out of his colony. For a while the movie bogs down in the "believe in yourself,” "fight your adversity” clichés in which family films tend to wallow, but after an interlude with another group of hotfooting penguins (led by motor mouth Robin Williams), the film gets a little more ambitious. As Mumble attempts to convince encroaching humans not to take the fish out of the area, things get pretty dire, with our hero winding up put in the one place guaranteed to send any penguin into despair. While more than a few conservative commentators were displeased by the environmental slant of the film, you dismiss it at your peril — not merely for being smarter than the average kid pic but because the film has the gravitas to sell its more light-hearted moments. It’s not perfect but it’s better than it had to be and very, very good in spots. Extras include two excised sequences (including one that features the voice of the late Steve Irwin), a dance lesson with Savion Glover that’s a little too obvious, two videos for Gia’s "Hit Me Up” and Prince’s "The Song of the Heart,” and a ’30s vintage cartoon about a jazz-singing owl that mirrors the feature more than a little. (Warner)