Happy Feet, The Fifth Element, Spring Breakers: films on TV today

Penguins strut their funky stuff, Bruce Willis can help save the world, American students just want to party: the RadioTimes team’s pick of free-to-air films on TV today

ANDREW COLLINS:  FILM OF THE DAY
Happy Feet ★★★★
4.35-6.40pm ITV2

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2005’s hit live-action documentary March of the Penguins inspired a whole raft of computer-animated movies featuring our waddling Antarctic pals. In Madagascar they flew a plane; in Surf’s Up they, yes, surfed; but this 2006 musical gave us a multitude of the flightless birds, belting out a medley of Stevie Wonder, Elvis and Prince in intricate song-and-dance numbers that put Babe director George Miller’s technically ambitious and funky film right out in front. Mumble (voiced by Elijah Wood) is a newborn emperor chick who lacks the colony’s natural ability to sing. His knack for tap dancing is inadequate compensation, so he is ostracised and eventually separated, leading to one of those long journeys home that so suit this kind of animal adventure. Great set pieces ensue, many with music and one with two terrifying killer whales; environmental and social lessons are learned, too. Happy Feet Two, which was a bit mad, struggled to match it. One warning: contains a freewheeling Robin Williams in vocal overdrive. 


 The Fifth Element ★★★★

10.25pm-12.50am C5

Bruce Willis drives a cab through a futuristic New York in a genuine trip of a sci-fi thriller from director Luc Besson, with Milla Jovovich as the mysterious humanoid who lands in his back seat. It’s set in the 23rd century, and sees the Earth at the mercy of Evil and his henchman Gary Oldman, who’s sent to take the four elemental stones that, combined with the fabled fifth element, can protect the world. Willis’s world-weary cabbie is the perfect foil for Besson’s flamboyant imagination, which is topped by Jean Paul Gaultier’s wonderful costumes.


Spring Breakers ★★★★

10.55pm-12.45am Film Four PREMIERE

Party-hungry American college students turn to crime to fund their vacation – and it all spirals into a parent’s worst nightmare from there, in this provocative drama from Harmony Korine. He was the man who brought us Kids in 1995 but is still mining youthful indiscretion 20 years later. James Franco is suitably sleazy as the drug rapper who guides the girls into the dark side of the holiday season, though it was Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens who got the headlines, breaking their squeaky clean images with impressive performances.    


The Quiet American ★★★★

11.30pm-1.00am BBC2

World-weary journalist Michael Caine and American aid worker Brendan Fraser vie for the love of a young Vietnamese woman as Vietnam bridles under French colonial rule during the 1950s. Caine is on Oscar-nominated form in a sweatily atmospheric adaptation of the Graham Greene novel that puts American foreign policy under the microscope.


Gypsy ★★★★
1.50-4.10pm BBC2

Mervyn Leroy’s dramatisation of the Broadway hit musical only suffers when it’s compared to the barnstorming original (and the thought that Judy Garland had been first choice to take the Ethel Merman role of Rose Hovick, frustrated mother of burlesque icon Gypsy Rose Lee. But it’s an entertaining, in places magnificent piece of work in its own right, and Rosalind Russell covers all the bases. Natalie Wood may not have quite the brazen appeal to play Lee herself, but the songs, dubbed or not, are the heart of the movie.


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