By Jane Boursaw,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Well-meaning animation is oddly sexual; some scary moments.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Kids are likely to pick up some talking points about conservation and environmentalism and may be inspired to learn more about penguins communicating through vocalization. They'll also learn the importance of being true to yourself.
Promotes the importance of friendships and family and the value of supporting and accepting one another despite differences. The plotline of penguins finding a mate feels overly sexual at times, but the overall story is well-meaning and positive. Ultimately the message of embracing your own uniqueness shines through. The movie also has strong environmental messages and themes.
Positive Role Models
Mumble is an excellent role model showing integrity, bravery, and determination. He's also compassionate, open-hearted, optimistic, and largely unselfconscious. He embraces being different and finds something he's good at in order to stand out from the colony. Gloria is happy, caring, and confident. Mom and Dad are loving and supportive, largely proud of their son despite his differences. The Adelie penguins are supportive and encouraging, accepting Mumble without prejudice.
Even in a story about penguins, diversity is lacking -- the vast majority of main characters are male, while the two significant female characters are lusted after and somewhat objectified. The female penguins' shape suggests they have breasts and cleavage. Stereotypes include Latin-coded penguins caricatured as party-loving and sexually energetic. A penguin coded as Black comes across as an oversexed, fundamentalist preacher. Two of these characters are voiced by Robin Williams putting on exaggerated accents, reflecting a lack of diversity among the cast. Disability is touched upon but never explicitly clarified -- Mumble is simply referred to as "different."
Did we miss something on diversity? Suggest an update.
Violence & Scariness
The penguins are attacked by scary elephant seals. They must face cold and blizzards. Seabirds threaten to eat baby Mumble, pinning him down, then leaving him shivering in an ice hole. A large Emperor penguin slaps a smaller Adelie penguin. Peril when killer whales try to catch the penguins; Lovelace is dragged under water, and then they're all pursued by the whales. Upsetting scene when Mumble is trapped inside a zoo and hallucinates seeing his family and friends.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Sexy talk and suggestive behavior throughout is open to interpretation -- it may seem racy to an adult but will go over most kids' heads. Strong focus on penguins finding a mate, with the associated implications of finding one another sexually attractive. They must sing a unique "heart song" in order to find a mate -- these are all pop songs, many with lyrics that include references to making love, being turned on. Female penguins' shape suggests they have breasts and cleavage. Adelie penguin banter objectifies the females; one thrusts his hips at the "chicas." Lovelace has a group of adoring female singers; they follow him as he says, "Who's first?" Mumble bumps into another penguin's private parts. Reference to male penguins not wanting to hug each other. Some innuendoes from a male penguin about female penguins wanting him.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
"Freakin'," reference to kissing penguins' butts. "Shut up," "fatty," "idiot," "fool," "go forth and multiply."
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Happy Feet is an appealing animated film with catchy music and largely positive messages alongside some suggestive content. There's sexy talk and suggestive behavior throughout, which the movie justifies through the plotline of penguins seeking mates. Much of this will likely go over most kids' heads, but it could lead to some uncomfortable moments. The movie also deals with environmental themes related to humans intruding on natural habitats but avoids the heavy-duty questions of how to solve the problem. Some of the chase sequences and elephant seal scenes might be scary for younger kids. Also, stereotyping comes into play: Latin-coded penguins are caricatured as party-loving animals, and a penguin coded as Black comes across as an oversexed, fundamentalist preacher. Still, the movie's messages of integrity, social acceptance, and embracing your own uniqueness shine through.
To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Where to Watch
Videos and Photos
Based on 70 parent reviews
Tapping and Singing with a Preschooler to Happy Feet
Report this review
Awful and inappropriate
Report this review
What's the Story?
George Miller's ultra-cute animated comedy features the voice of Elijah Wood as Mumble, an Antarctic penguin who can't find his "heart song," a tune unique to each penguin that's supposed to attract a mate. Instead of the soulful melodies all the other penguins sing, Mumble croaks out horrible sounds. But he can tap dance up a storm, which is exactly what he does, even though the other penguins -- including his dad, Memphis (Hugh Jackman) -- think it's just plain weird. Eventually, penguin tribe leader Noah (Hugo Weaving) ousts Mumble from the community, claiming that his oddities are responsible for the recent fish shortage. Exiled, Mumble embarks on a journey to discover the true cause of the waning food supply. Along the way, he stumbles upon a gang of penguins known as the Adelie Amigos, and their guru, Lovelace (Robin Williams). They convince Mumble that his dancing is actually cool, and together, they search for the "alien annihilators," who gave Lovelace a "talisman" (a plastic six-pack container ring).
Is It Any Good?
Lest you think this upbeat animated musical is a rip-off of the 2005 documentary March of the Penguins, let's set the record straight. Although Happy Feet manages to sneak in some real-life penguin oddities to fascinate viewers, this CGI movie is very much aiming for charm and happiness, not the harshness of the struggle to survive in a challenging environment. On the whole, the star-studded voice cast does a thoroughly entertaining job of portraying a community of anthropomorphized penguins. But with Kidman doing her breathiest Marilyn Monroe impression and Williams in amoral evangelist territory, you can't help feeling that at least some of the content is rather sexual for the young target audience. Fortunately, the overarching message is joyous and well-intentioned, with Mumble a strong role model for integrity, compassion, and determination.
Meanwhile, Mumble's dancing isn't just awfully cute but also true-to-life, thanks to the motion-capture techniques used to graft acclaimed dancer Savion Glover's moves onto the penguin's body. At face value, Happy Feet is a visual treat with dynamic characters and a funky vibe. And if you can see beyond the overly sexual tone that keeps popping up and BIPOC-coded stereotypes, you'll find positivity and fun, mesmerizing Antarctic landscapes, and a toe-tapping soundtrack.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about how to accept and embrace what makes each person unique. What makes Mumble different from the other penguins? Do you think it's hard for him to pursue his dream even when the others think it's weird? How does staying true to himself show that he has integrity?
Why do some people think that everyone should conform and "fit in"? Has there ever been a time when you didn't feel like you fit in? How did that make you feel?
How can people's individual abilities benefit their community and the larger world?
- In theaters: November 16, 2006
- On DVD or streaming: March 27, 2007
- Cast: Elijah Wood, Nicole Kidman, Robin Williams
- Director: George Miller
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Adventures, Arts and Dance, Music and Sing-Along, Ocean Creatures, Wild Animals
- Character Strengths: Integrity
- Run time: 108 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some mild peril and rude humor
- Last updated: June 3, 2023
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
Suggest an Update
Where to Watch
Our Editors Recommend
Best Animated Animal Movies
Best Animal Movies for Kids
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate