Directed by Ash Brannon, Chris Buck
Sony Pictures Animation, 2007
By Caesar Martini
Seriously, what is the deal with penguins? Granted, I love penguins. I love how they waddle around on land and how they streak through the water like little chubby torpedoes. It’s nice that the rest of the world has caught on to the awesomeness of penguins. But seriously, one documentary about penguins comes out, and it leads to a surge of popularity that makes it possible for me to say this: Surf’s Up is the best movie involving animated penguins that I’ve ever seen. Who wants to live in a world like this one?
I think what I really dug about Surf’s Up was that it was presented as a documentary. The characters in the movie are supposedly being followed around by filmmakers and cameramen who are documenting aspiring penguin surfer Cody Maverick (voiced by Shia LaBeouf, who’s last name is French for “the beef,” I think) as he competes in his first ever Penguin World Surfing Championship. They even splice story progression with ‘interviews’ of the characters, the way an actual documentary would do. I enjoyed this because it’s presented to the viewer differently than most kids’ movies.
In fact, the mockumentary-style was so well done, it reminded me of an awesome actual surfing documentary called Riding Giants , which I’d recommend to anybody except people who are horribly terrified of falling off a surfboard and drowning. And like that film, Surf’s Up portrays surfing in such a romantic, skillful way that it actually made me want to take up surfing.
It helped that the CGI is incredible, especially the wave dynamics. It seems every CGI movie is more graphically impressive than the last one, even if you don’t notice it right away – if you don’t believe me, watch Toy Story again…it’s a great movie but it looks like a bag of asses compared to the stuff coming out these days.
And as a nice bonus, Surf’s Up has a good message for kids about the importance of doing what you love and having fun rather than focusing on competition and winning. Also, there’s no dancing in this movie so you don’t have to worry about your kids flapping their feet around in public like idiots. Surf’s Up isn’t at the upper echelon of animated films, but it’s definitely better than most.