Surf’s Up
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Ash Brannon, Chris Buck
scr Don Rhymer, Ash Brannon, Chris Buck, Christopher Jenkins voices Shia LaBeouf, Jeff Bridges, Zooey Deschanel, Jon Heder, James Woods, Diedrich Bader, Mario Cantone, Dana Belben, Brian Posehn, Kelly Slater, Rob Machado, Sal Masekela
release US 8.Jun.07, UK 10.Aug.07
07/US Sony 1h25
Surf's Up
Cowabunga dude: Cody and Geek

labeouf bridges deschanel

Surf's Up Even though this is yet another penguin comedy, it's lively and funny, with an original take on the material that makes it feel surprisingly fresh. Until it settles into the standard formula, that is.

Cody (voiced by LaBeouf) is a teenage penguin in Shiverpool, Antarctica, who's obsessed with surfing and reveres the late champion Big Z. He's discovered by a talent scout (Cantone) of the fame-obsessed promoter (Woods) of the upcoming Big Z Memorial Surf Off on Pen Gu Island, where he's taken under the wing of fellow competitor Chicken Joe (Heder). But the cocky Cody is soon put in his place by the vain defending champ Tank (Bader). When a friendly lifeguard (Deschanel) introduces him to washed-up surfer Geek (Bridges), Cody finally begins to find his feet.

The most inventive touch is to frame this as a documentary, complete with intrusive camera crew, scratchy historical footage and crumpled holiday snaps. Each scene is sharply written and animated, and hilarious good fun as the characters bounce off each other, making snappy comments and wry observations. This dense comedy continues right through the film, although the doc format is abandoned for the middle section (when Cody is training on a secret beach), which makes the story sag a bit. And all of the sappy stuff about being true to yourself is deeply simplistic.

Technically, the film looks terrific, with an extremely cinematic sheen. The ocean looks absolutely gorgeous, which makes the surfing scenes feel expansive and thrilling. The animators also cleverly mimic a hand-held shooting style that's nicely echoed in the realistic creature designs, contrasted of course by all of the wacky anthropomorphism. But even this is witty and inventive, from the cannibalistic native islanders to three young penguins who provide a running commentary.

The voice work is terrific as well, with a constant patter of jokes, some of which have a fairly sharp edge to them (like Tank's freaky obsession with his trophies). As a result, we don't mind too much when the plot slips into the usual storytelling cliches, compete with an over-the-top climax, sludgy sentimentality and even a corny romance.

cert pg 15.Jun.07 themes, vulgarity

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Surf's Up Matt Hoie, Arizona: 4/5 "This delightfully surprising animated movie benefits from excellent voice-work, in part because the cast read their lines together, as well as a smooth, laid-back tone, a great surfer soundtrack, and a clever mockumentary structure. In addition, the animation rivals or surpasses anything from Dreamworks or Pixar from the lifelike movements and expressions of the characters, to the lush, sharply contrasted colors, to the shadows and visual palette, to the palm trees blowing in the wind, the sand, water, waves and foam. This leads to thrilling, jaw-dropping surfing sequences in which little droplets of water splash on the lens. Also impressive is the camera work which looks surpisingly handheld. For the first time, you will believe that an animated movie can be 'filmed', so-to-speak." (12.Aug.07)
2007 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall