Toe-tapping is frowned upon in the waddle of penguins where Mumble (voice by Elijah Wood) lives. (Despite the fact it seems like a good way to stay warm in the frigid cold of Antarctica.) Instead these flightless birds "sing" to attract the opposite sex.
Yet from the day the fluffy, little Mumble hatches out of his shell, he's in trouble. Although he can shuffle and step-ball-change better than anyone else, the boy can't sing a note. And not only is his apparent impediment embarrassing to his parents (voices by Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman), it also troubles the conformist penguin leaders who fear Mumble's unconventional actions are behind the lack of fish that is threatening the survival of the colony.
Like so many coming of age stories, Mumble leaves home, in this case to find the reason the fish have fled from the waters surrounding the ice floe. Accompanying him is a band of little penguins from another part of the island who take him to their leader, Lovelace (voice by Robin Williams), for advice about the aliens that supposedly live on the forbidden shore of the island.
While young audiences may initially be engaged by the cute antics of baby Mumble (voice by Elizabeth Daily), the music and choreography looks more like something from MTV than a children's musical. Some moments of peril may also be disturbing when Mumble finds himself on the lunch menu for a savage looking seal and a couple of hungry orca whales.
With a strong environmental theme, this combination of animation and real life actors is a fictitious look at those intriguing birds that make their home at the bottom of the earth. But for kids eager to see this two-stepping extravaganza, the film has a hard time focusing on one plot line. Instead the script detours into grownup dance numbers and side trips down ecological issues in a way that leaves the charm of Happy Feet sitting on the sideline.