Simon Dillon reviews the film

Surf's Up

After March of the Penguins and Happy Feet, do we really need another penguin film? In the case of Surf's Up, perhaps we do. It's no masterpiece, but it certainly satisfies any animation cravings one might feel whilst waiting for Pixar's reportedly superb Ratatouille.

Making witty use of the "mockumentary" format, Surf's Up claims that penguins invented surfing. A documentary crew follows Cody Maverick (voiced by Transformers star Shia LeBeouf), a teenage penguin who dreams of winning a surfing tournament in the tropics. Once there, he meets cute penguin lifeguard, Lani Aliikai (Zooey Deschanel, recently seen in Bridge to Terebithia), hilariously insensitive surfing agent Reggie Belafonte (James Woods) and a surfing chicken (voiced by Jon Heder). Cody's surfing hero, Big Z (Jeff Bridges in chilled dude Big Lebowski mode), is presumed dead but turns up a burned-out recluse. He reluctantly agrees to train Cody so he stands a chance against the mean-spirited champion, Tank Evans (Dietrich Bader). In the process of learning to surf, Cody discovers that having friends and enjoying life is more important than winning.

In fact, the moral of the story is almost exactly the same as Cars. It's obvious, but not preachy and the documentary style gives the film a cynical edge that ensures the sentiment never gets too sickly or preachy. Although directors Ash Brannon and Chris Buck are not out to raise the animation ante, the renderings are more than up to scratch - especially in the flashback sequences where scratches and faded colours have been deliberately added to make the footage look old, and the exciting "surf tunnel" shots, all scored to some well-used pop songs. The cast contribute fine vocal performances, and although the story is predictable, it's certainly an enjoyable way to spend 85 minutes. The jokes are sophisticated, and this is more likely to appeal to adults than children. Those expecting another Happy Feet will be disappointed (the film even has an amusing dig at that film, laughing off the prospect of singing dancing penguins), but although this flopped at the US box office, there is enough evidence here to suggest cinemas love affair with penguins has not yet run its course. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.