Starring: Shia LaBoeuf, Zooey Deschanel, Jeff Bridges
Director: Ash Brannon, Chris Buck
Running Time: 85 mins
Surf’s Up is an American film that takes a behind-the-scenes look at the story of young Cody Maverick, an ambitious penguin from Antarctica who has dreams of winning the annual penguin surfing competition against fierce international competition.
I could say that this is like every other sports film, but it really isn’t. Yes, the main bulk of the story is completely predictable, but away from that, it’s quite a funny watch, while its underlying message about the fact that it’s the enjoyment and not the winning that counts is not as cheesy as it sounds.
The first thing, though, that I want to talk about is how this film is structured. It wavers between a simple narrative and a mockumentary, and while I think that the mockumentary part of it is much more original and makes it a lot funnier, the fact that it often changes so dramatically between the two genres is occasionally annoying.
The objective of the behind-the-scenes side to the film is to show the penguin surfing competition as big deal as any other major sporting event, and that does make it feel a lot more real, but the jumping to the more emotional parts of Cody’s story (where they couldn’t possibly have had a camera crew) was frustrating, as it completely changed the tone in a flash.
However, these intentions do show that this film is a lot more intelligent than your average kids’ animation blockbuster. Rather than having an extremely simple story, it talks about what being a winner truly means, and the importance of friends, which is actually quite an interesting story to follow along to, while it’s not too complicated for kids.
In terms of the comedy, that’s not as generic as you’d expect either. It’s not completely light, family-friendly comedy, nor is it too rude for any kids, it’s almost a perfect balance that makes it very funny while also being light enough to avoid peeing your pants.
The animation in this film is also fantastic. While Dreamworks may have been 4 years behind Pixar after Finding Nemo, and while it does feel like a shameless rip-off of Happy Feet, it’s a really good looking film, with some beautiful shots of the giant waves in the crystal clear water, and a good variety of different penguin characters.
Overall, this gets a 7.2, because for all of its issues with how it tells the story, it makes up for it by being a hugely entertaining film.