Happy Feet Gives Conservatives Something To Rant About, But Barnyard Had Drinking, Vandalizing ... And Promotions From "Pro-Family" Firm
Happy Feet, the new and very popular children's film about a tap-dancing penguin trying to find love and right environmental wrongs, has become the symbol du jour for conservatives to rant about "Hollywood liberals," and how out of touch they are.
Glenn Beck and Neil Cavuto are among the conservatives who have called the film an animated version of the Al Gore documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, even though Happy Feet revolves around an anti-pollution message, not global warming. Other conservatives have noted that the penguin friends of lead character Mumble (voiced by Elijah Wood) appear to be gay.
I saw the movie a couple of weeks ago with my five-year-old son and my father-in-law, and for us, the problem with the film was not the environmental message, but the un-clever way the message it's introduced.
My thumbnail review: the first half of Happy Feet is very entertaining, in a big Broadway musical way -- a children's version of Moulin Rouge. The second half, starting with Mumble's swim across the ocean and stay in a glass-enclosed zoo exhibit, is humorless and off-putting. The only comparison I can make is to A.I., starting with when Haley Joel Osment's character is frozen in the ocean for a millenium, then brought back to life by aliens. And if you're familiar with A.I., you know that part of the movie isn't funny or particularly child-friendly.
Happy Feet then ends with a montage of politicians reacting to what they've learned from Mumble. Again, not funny. Not deft.
Conservatives rail against Hollywood because it's an easy target. You don't see conservatives knocking the "Hollywood agenda" when the film is The Passion of the Christ, even though many people found that film's portrayal of Jews objectionable.
Conservatives are also one-sided in their criticisms on the politically motivated in Hollywood. Barbra Streisand as an outspoken liberal. But conservatives champion Patricia Heaton -- Ray Romano's wife on Everybody Loves Raymond and an outspoken conservative. Dennis Miller can make anti-John Kerry jokes -- even insinuate that Kerry and John Edwards were gay -- at a rally for President Bush, and that's ok. Whoopi Goldberg makes sexually explicit jokes about Bush's last name at a Kerry fund-raiser, and that's bad. Arnold Schwarzenegger has every right to hold political office. Al Franken does not.
In the world of children's movies, political messages can be found everywhere, going back to a World War II-era Bugs Bunny, featured in several pro-military shorts.
Other recent children's movies have more deftly delivered messages that could be seen as political. Over The Hedge, at its heart, swipes at commercialism. Open Season makes hunters look foolish and at times, mean. Flushed Away makes fun of the French. None of those films led to rants from conservatives.
Sometimes, Hollywood goes out of its way not to offend conservatives. For example, the producers of Everyone's Hero changed several "Oh my God" declarations to "Oh my gosh," to earn endorsements from Christian groups.
Frankly, the most offensive children's movie I've seen this year was Barnyard, which features "party animals" -- not adult animals, mind you -- drinking excessively, vandalizing, and in one case, have pre-marital sex that leads to a pregnant cow. Yet that movie not only flew under the radar of the "pro-family" conservative pundits, it was promoted by faith-based marketing firm Grace Hill Media.