Robin Williams covering Julio Iglesias? Pink covering Stevie Wonder? Hugh Jackman covering Elvis in a duet with Nicole Kidman covering Prince? It sounds too crazy to be true, I know, but apparently it’s what you get when you make a CG animated movie about tap dancing and singing penguins.

“Happy Feet: Music From The Motion Picture” takes a light-hearted approach to the concept from the soundtrack of Moulin Rouge. It pulls together tons of popular songs, has various cast members sing them, and then mish-mashes them together into a sort of story line. It doesn’t work quite so well for this movie, but the resulting collection of songs still catches your ear.

There’s too much variation to try and offer an overarching review, so I’ve broken it down by track.

TRACK 1 – “The Song of the Heart”, Prince
Did we learn nothing from the movie Purple Rain? The further away from movie soundtracks that we can keep Prince, the better off we’ll all be. He various random squeals and grunts are no less annoying here than anywhere else. In fact, they might be more so since, at one point in the song, his voice gets the same high pitched squeaky digital alteration that they used for the baby penguins in the movie. It doesn’t get much weirder than chipmunk Prince. Not a good way to start off the disc.

TRACK 2 – “Hit Me Up”, Gia Farrell
For the last several years Disney has always had some kind of newbie start-up band or pop singer that they attach to their kids movies. It’s annoying as heck, and yet Warner Bros. is jumping on the band wagon. Gia Farrell is the new kid on the block here and I guess she’s hoping that being in the presence of Pink and Prince might get her some attention. “Hit Me Up” has some nice rhythm and you can move your feet to it (hence why it’s attached to this movie) but there’s nothing about her to suggest we’ll ever know her as anyone but that girl with the song from Happy Feet.

TRACK 3 – “Tell Me Something Good”, Pink
Pink isn’t the first name that pops to mind when I envision someone to cover Stevie Wonder’s “Tell Me Something Good”, but she makes it work. There’s not a lot new to the song, just enough techno sounds to give it a 21st century face lift.

TRACK 4 - “Somebody To Love”, Brittany Murphy
The covers just get weirder and weirder. Brittany Murphy covering a Queen song? A lovely choir with some of the froggiest bass voices to be found accompanies Brittany through a gospel rendition of “Somebody To Love”. The lyrics have been altered to fit the penguin world (“raise your flippers” she sings in the song) and it factors in as one of the big numbers in the movie. I’m not sure what’s more surprising: that it works so well or that Murphy has such an amazing voice. Get this girl a gig on Broadway.

TRACK 5 – “I Wish”, Patti LaBelle, Yolanda Adams and Fantasia Barrino
Another Stevie Wonder rendition. Powerhouse trio Patti LaBelle, Yolanda Adams and Fantasia Barrino belt it out with another gospel choir backup (I guess penguins are really into gospel?). The lyrics seem a little rough and tumble for a movie clearly aimed at the kiddos, but there’s no denying that there’s lots of energy, something you can’t get enough of when entertaining any kind of audience.

TRACK 6 – “Jump ‘N Move”, The Brand New Heavies (featuring JAMALSKI)
I’m guessing you have to be as high as the singer was when he recorded this song to have a clue what he’s saying. Actually, at one point he recites the alphabet at Mach 3 but that’s about the only intelligible part. Sure, it’s pretty cool that he can Rastafarian rap the lyrics so fast, but the song goes from being fascinating to annoying within the first fifteen seconds and goes downhill from there. I’m sure it creates wonderful energy for some important moment in the movie. As a stand alone song it’s just irritating.

TRACK 7 – “Do It Again”, The Beach Boys
Finally, a song sung by the band who originally recorded it. Just don’t listen to it after “Jump ‘N Move”. That high speed craziness leaves the Beach Boys sounding lethargic.

TRACK 8 – “The Joker”, Jason Mraz mash-up with “Everything I Own”, Chrissie Hynde
The mash-up concept is a lot of fun to hear, if not a bit misleading. There’s no mashing going on here. No, both songs have been brilliantly laid one on top of the other and blended into a lovely duet of two singers singing two totally different songs at the same time. On a side note, Jason Mraz’ smooth voice can make anything sound wholesome, even lyrics like “I’m a smoker, a midnight toker.”

TRACK 9 – “My Way (A Mi Manera)”, Robin Williams
This is definitely the gem from this disc. Robin Williams truly sings it his own way, as only he could. He belts out the famous lounge song in his penguin character voice, singing completely in the Spanish lyrics until he gets to the last lines of the chorus, sticking with an over-the-top “my way” each and every time. It’s an absolute riot and a reminder how great this guy is as a vocal comic actor. I really need to go watch Aladdin again.

TRACK 10 – “Kiss”, Nicole Kidman mash-up with “Heartbreak Hotel”, Hugh Jackman.
OK, we all know that Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman can sing. One dazzled us in Moulin Rouge and the other has headlined in a major Broadway musical. With his song they prove they also know how to cut loose and get a little crazy with their vocal talents. Kidman gets crazy breathy with her version of Prince’s “Kiss” and Jackman curls up his lip, shakes his hip and gives the King a run for his money with “Heartbreak Hotel”. The whole song is a little out of place outside of its movie context and it’s hard to miss the Moulin Rouge mockery as well, but it’s all in good fun.

TRACK 11 – “Boogie Wonderland”,Brittany Murphy
Here’s another song that’s so closely tied to the movie’s story that it feels a little awkward standing on its own. The tap dancing you hear is the main character, Mumbles, inspiring another penguin with his dancing. It leads into another chance for Brittany to strut her stuff. The song wanders into a sort of revue that includes a Mariachi mambo rap rendition and some crazy tap dance solos that sound like something out of a Stomp performance.

TRACK 12 – “Golden Slumbers / The End”, k.d. lang
With all the covers on this disc I guess it wouldn’t have been right not to toss in some Beatles. It’s a bit of a shock to jump from all the other high energy songs to k.d.’s slow, crooning rendition, but still a nice way to wrap things up.

TRACK 13 – “The Story of Mumble Happyfeet”, John Powell
Almost as an afterthought, a single selection from the movie’s score is tacked on to the end of the set. Powell, whose other scores include Robots, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, X-Men: The Last Stand and theBourne movies, knows his way around a strong percussion section, which is perfect for a movie about a tap dancing penguin. The track offers a whirlwind adventure through bits and pieces of the entire score and makes me hope the full score will get its own release. Until then, this wonderful five and a half minute excerpt will have to tide over.

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