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‘The Pebble and the Penguin’ (G)

By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
April 13, 1995

Each year soon after the thaw, all the male penguins at the South Pole flock to a particular beach where they present their chosen lovers with a special pebble and then mate for life.

This year, Hubie, the flippered hero of Don Bluth's semi-adequate animated feature "The Pebble and the Penguin," is determined to be first on the beach, guaranteeing himself a good pick of stones to bestow upon his beloved Marina. Because of his clumsiness, though, Hubie—whose voice is provided by Martin Short—bumbles his best chances and comes away empty-handed—that is, until a nifty-size green gem drops from the sky, landing right at his feet.

Now, only Drake (Tim Curry), the evil penguin bully, stands between Hubie and his goal. Before their climatic confrontation takes place, however, Hubie becomes lost at sea, where he must face down all kinds of danger—including a leopard seal, some dastardly humans and a herd of killer whales.

Try to imagine it, though—an evil animated penguin. It just doesn't work.

Hubie's companion in these adventures is a bellicose bird named Rocko (Jim Belushi) who dreams of becoming the first penguin to fly, but for now is preoccupied with the full-time job of saving Hubie's life.

The film's better parts come early on. A flourishing opening number—titled "Here and Now"—proves that Short can belt out a song with the best of them. Unfortunately, even with Short's voice, Hubie is hopeless drip. Also, there is an essential component missing from the odd-couple chemistry between Belushi—who's his usual loudmouthed self—and Short. They never click.

In general, the Bluth studio style of animation is passable, and, in the case of a Brecht-Weill flavored production number, occasionally inspired. (The song for this sequence is also the best of the uninspired Barry Manilow-Bruce Sussman music for the film.) Cumulatively, though, the banality of the story, the pallid look, the flatness of the characters add up to a product that is, at best, second rate.

Accompanying "The Pebble and the Penguin" in its theater run is a new Pink Panther short called "Driving Mr. Pink." In it, the Pink Panther—whose elegant silence has been replaced by an adenoidal whine—hops into a taxi whose driver is a chap calling himself the VooDoo Man. Mayhem ensues, all of which we've seen a hundred times before.

Copyright The Washington Post

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