Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
I feel funny bringing this up in a review of an animated film for kids, but the greatest travel book ever written is The Worst Journey in the World, by Apsley Cherry-Garrard. He was a member of Robert Falcon Scott's doomed expedition to the South Pole, but the journey he writes about is his own trek of five weeks in the southern winter of 1911, with two other men, on foot, for 67 miles across broken ice peaks, hauling their own sledges through the polar night, in the coldest temperatures on earth, to discover the secrets of penguins and their eggs.
In the introduction to his great book, Cherry-Garrard concludes: "Take it all in all, I do not believe that anybody on earth has a worse time than the Emperor penguin." Now you see the connection, since "The Pebble and the Penguin" is about these very same creatures, which are perhaps the most primitive birds on earth.
So now here's this jolly cartoon about a shy bachelor penguin who engages in the ancient penguin ritual of selecting a pebble from the beach and presenting it to the lady penguin of his dreams. But the hero of the story (named Hubie, voiced by Martin Short) is swept away before he can propose to the beautiful Marina and rescued from a zoo boat by the clever penguin Rocco (voiced by Jim Belushi), and returns home, of course, after learning that (all together now) yes, penguins CAN fly! The story is so drippy and inane that I found my thoughts drifting back to those lonely birds Cherry-Garrard discovered at the midpoint of the Worst Journey. The males spend long months in total darkness and gale winds, at temperatures 100 degrees below freezing, sitting on an egg. That is the high point of their year. It is also interesting, which is more than can be said for the story of this movie.
What bothered me most about "The Pebble and the Penguin," even more than its inanity and the sappy Barry Manilow songs ("One perfect pebble, just one humble stone, but oh, what a stone can do . . .") was something that annoys me in a lot of children's animated features: color-coding.