Happy Feet Waltzes into Theaters

With that waddle and those tuxedo markings, penguins are living poof that Mother Nature has a sense of humor. But will Warner Bros. be laughing all the way to the bank after this weekend’s release of its latest CG-animated feature about the secret world of these bi-polar inhabitants? Happy Feet opens across North America today with the highest theater count and a mission to dethrone Borat and eliminate Bond.

The Happy Feet features Elijah Wood from the Lord of the Rings trilogy as the voice of Mumble, a young penguin born into a nation of singing Emperor penguins where each needs a heart song to attract a soul mate. Since Mumble is cursed with being the worst singer in the world, he learns to rely on his tap dancing skills to catch the eye of a special young lady. Directed by George Miller, whose credits include the Babe and Mad Max films, Happy Feet is an animated musical comedy that also stars the voices of Brittany Murphy (King of the Hill) Hugh Jackman (Flushed Away), Nicole Kidman (His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass), Robin Williams (Robots) and Hugo Weaving (The Matrix trilogy), among others. The movie opens to a lot of positive reviews, most praising the film for its stunning visuals and soulful music.

With reigning box-office champ Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan entering its third week, Happy Feet‘s biggest competition is Sony and Columbia Pictures’ latest James Bond flick, Casino Royale. The introduction of a new 007, Daniel Craig, along with obvious efforts to revitalize the franchise should translate to healthy ticket sales. Critics have also gotten behind the release, making it the best-reviewed movie currently on RottenTomatoes.com, a site that compiles reviews from around the country. The pic sees a younger Bond undertaking his first mission and features visual effects by Cinesite, MPC, Peerless Camera Company, Double Negative and Framestore-CFC.

Also opening in wide release is the Universal laffer Lets Go to Prison, which stars Arrested Development‘s Will Arnet and rising comedy star Dax Shepherd, who graduated from Ashton Kutcher’s MTV reality series Punk’d to appear in such films as Without a Paddle, Idiocracy and Employee of the Month. Meanwhile, Freestyle Releasing opens its mini-fright film festival After Dark’s Horror Fest: 8 Films to Die For in 448 theaters nationwide.