***/**** Image A- Sound A Extras B-
screenplay by George Miller, John Collee, Judy Morris, Warren Coleman
directed by George Miller
by Walter Chaw For no other purpose, really, than that I loved its unabashed perversity and darkness, I used to make an annual ritual of watching George Miller's Babe: Pig in the City. The image of Mickey Rooney in full clown regalia, sopping at an ice cream cone, is the stuff of nightmares, as well as a marvellous example of how much Aussie director George Miller got away with halfway around the world from his financiers. As a kid's show, Babe II's success has a lot to do with it recognizing how familiar is fear and isolation in the life of a youngster, and providing solutions to things that alarm instead of denying their existence. Watching the director's latest, Happy Feet, the moment Mumble (voiced by Elijah Wood, danced by Savion Glover) woke up in a zoo after an odyssey in pursuit of a commercial fishing vessel and was told by his inmate, a HAL-voiced fellow penguin, "Try the water, Dave. The water's real, Dave," I realized that we were down the same rabbit hole with Miller, seeing zoo animals as insane at best, made so by the drudgery of routine and the inability to communicate with their jailers. It's a fertile image amidst Happy Feet's most fertile passage (and its connection to the Starchild sequence in 2001 is the second such allusion in a film this month (see also: The Fountain)), one that ends with Mumble tying the secret of interspecies understanding to that old minstrel trick of tap-dancing for a very particular audience of otherwise disinterested aliens.