Parenthood confers many blessings, but the requirement that one watch an endless succession of kiddie movies is not among them.

This weekend, I found myself sitting on the bean bag with the boys, watching Happy Feet. You’ll recall that the movie caused a bit of buzz in green (and anti-green) circles when it came out, thanks to its environmental message.

Having seen it, what seems more striking than the message is the spectacular, bongtastic weirdness of it.


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OK, here’s the deal: among emperor penguins in Antarctica, the mark of tribal membership is having a "heart song," meaning, yes, being able to sing a bad cover of a pop song. Then Mumble is born, and he can’t sing. He can only … tap dance. This causes the other penguins to mock and shun him.

I’m sorry, what?

I realize the outcast that redeems himself is the basis of every kids movie, but are they just throwing tropes in a blender now? "Hey, penguins are popular — let’s get penguins! And they’ll sing! [sound of bong bubbling] Except the one that dances!"

What is it about penguins makes them seem like they would sing or dance, even when anthropomorphized? Random.

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Meanwhile, there’s a fish shortage, which gets blamed by the village elder on Mumble. (Singing bad pop songs pleases the ancient penguin gods, while tap dancing does not. [bubble bubble]) So Mumble wanders off in pursuit of the "aliens." He finds a fishing boat, chases it, and ends up in a zoo, where he impresses people with his tap dancing. Scientists tag him and send him back to his colony, where he convinces everyone that when the researchers show up, they all need to tap dance. So they do — a big choreographed tap dance. This causes the colony to get noticed, at which point something or other happens in involving the UN and then humanity decides to stop fishing altogether in Antarctica. And the fish come back, apparently within weeks.

Again: humans are, at long last, prompted to conserve resources by tap-dancing penguins. Somebody should tell the polar bears! Maybe they could put together their own little minstrel show.

Anyway, I don’t have a point. I’ve just rarely seen a movie that is such a mishmash of things that make no sense. Yet my kids loved it! Which I guess goes to show that the sense thing is overrated.

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