I recently saw the heartwarming movie that shows how the world’s fish-eating frenzy can be arrested by tap-dancing ebony-and-ivory beakface actors: Happy Feet. (If it seems familiar to you oldsters, it may be because it barely evaded copyright infringement by ripping off a limited number of scenes from The Pebble and the Penguin.)
The baby penguins were cute and the sliding/chase scenes were exciting.
The singing and dancing were fun, but cartoon penguins doing old disco/R&B tunes were meant for either developmentally arrested baby boomers or oversexed retro preteens. Either way, the focus group could not have been a pretty sight. Some white fortysomething writer/producers must have been romantically imagining themselves as hip, sexually active black teenagers in 1979. (If you prefer Barry Manilow to R&B, go find The Pebble and the Penguin.)
The “environmental” message was not propagandistic; it was stupid. There was no science, no pseudoscience, no politics, no pragmatism, no idealism; just a vague idea and a bunch of blabbering world-government politicians. This is more of that ambiguous white angst that someone, somewhere is suffering the consequences of colonialism, and only some metropolitan politicians can make it right.
The Chica/Chicano and Sambo stereotypes were witless and overdone. However, they perfectly expressed the fantasies of tragically rhythm-impaired upper-class East Coast white hippies: “Oh, bother! I can’t understand their speech, Jeeves, but I sure love to watch them dance!”
The anticlericalism was confused and strident, and thus quite disturbing. An entire documentary could be made on the psychological problems of the writers who inserted the religious elements. Unlike other Christian critics, I wasn’t offended by any perceived “anti-Christian” bias. The emperor penguin priest/chief was a shrill parody of a nineteenth-century Scottish Presbyterian preacher, as drawn by a white liberal who has never actually been in a church except for a funeral. He sounded a lot like the teacher from Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”, which made me want to yell, “Hey! Penguin! Leave those kids alone!” If someone has been traumatized by watching televangelists while listening to Pink Floyd and having cocaine flashbacks of A Clockwork Orange, they need to check into a drug treatment center instead of writing children’s cartoons.
The religion of the emperor penguins was shamanistic and superstitious rather than remotely Christian. If anything, it mocked paganism with its obsession over mating rituals and natural cycles. Similarly, the Adele penguins worshipped a rockhopper penguin that mostly resembled a fraudulent pseudo-tantric New Age guru. (Bhagwan and Ramtha, call your lawyers.) If you are a “Christian” and you were offended by these depictions, you need to start actually reading a Bible and attending an independent Baptist church. The ideas of religion that are pilloried here are drawn from the imaginings of miseducated, TV-saturated white liberal atheists.
However, the real question behind this movie is, how much meth did the marketing director use while developing the promotional campaign, and how far up his anal sphincter was his head? As with most productions and publications, someone with common sense should always look over the whole thing before it is actually promoted.
The first half plus some later scenes, without the religious tripe and sexual innuendoes, could have made a cute, one-hour DVD musical feature for twelve-year-olds with an upbeat message about using your natural strengths to creatively express yourself and to positively influence the wider culture. The spinoff music videos would still have been profitable. Then Al Gore could have cleaned up the politically incorrect figures from the first movie and developed the ideas from the last half into a maudlin yet coherent one-hour PBS special pleading to save endangered antarctic species.
Hopefully, the cute animation and music from this movie will be repackaged in a more attractive and useful form by the time it comes out on DVD, in order to redeem the public relations disaster caused by the phony hype for the theatrical release.