From everything I've read, I did expect something along the lines of "Lion King", and I think I was right. I've noticed the critics are very divided between loving it and hating it, and I think I know the reason - the title.
"Happy Feet" sets you up for a happy movie. This isn't. It's not a tragedy either, it's drama. And I think it's rather good drama, though I *don't* think it's going down in history like "Bambi"! I suspect that too many people go into it looking for 'Toy Story' and discover Real Life instead. Yes, there are some definitely *un*happy moments in it! Does that make it too heavy for children? Not in my opinion. (There are unhappy moments in 'Lion King' and 'Bambi', too.)
What about all the sexual innuendo you've been hearing about? I didn't see that. Yes the female penguins undulate to the music - nothing new there. It's certainly less sexually blatant than you're going to see on American Idol.
The ending is somewhat surprising, and I've heard complaints that it's too heavy handed and unrealistic. Unrealistic, sure. But heavy handed? I didn't think so.
I find the religious criticism quite heavy, but it's okay. The environmental appeal was (IMO) just the right touch for the story line.
Surprisingly, my almost-18-year-old daughter loved it. But then she's the environmental activist. My almost-17-year-old grandson did not like it. Not interested in the moral, he was also not thrilled with dancing penquins.
And btw, the visual effects are just as stunning as we've been led to expect.