Surf's Up

  • 2007-10-10
  • By Tim Osher

BEACH BUM: A young penguin pursues his dream of surfing in the world championships

Directors: Ash Brannon and Chris Buck

Poor penguins. These lucrative little birds have been milked for all they are worth lately and now they are rolled out once again for this superfluous CGI animation flick about, ahem, surfing penguins.
"Surf's Up" is told in a documentary format and follows teen penguin Cody Maverick (voice Shia LaBeouf) who is scouted out as a potential surfing champion from his miserable antarctic hometown of Shiverpool.
Cody has always dreamed of being a surfer ever since he briefly met his hero Big Z (voice Jeff Bridges), the legendary surfer who supposedly died while riding a huge wave in the final of the surfing world championship.
Cody is taken to the tropical-looking Pen Gu island to take part in the upcoming world championship which is named in memory of Big Z. There he immediately falls in love with Lani the penguin lifeguard (voice Zooey Deschanel) and befriends a laid-back rooster called Chicken Joe (voice Jon Heder).

More importantly, Cody discovers that Big Z is still alive and lives as a recluse in the jungle. It turns out that Big Z faked his own death because he was too ashamed to admit that he was no longer the best. These are the moral complexities which "Surf's Up" deals with: does he who wins, win? Or does he who loses, lose? Or does he who loses, win?
The problem with "Surf's Up" is that it never really hits any heights. The jokes are mildly amusing and the cast of quirky characters is mildly diverting. The story itself, however,  is exasperatingly formulaic in every sense.
Jeff Bridges lends the film some charm with a "Big Lebowski" style-cameo of a totally laidback dude. But the movie's most admirable achievement is its beautiful depiction of the waves. The final scenes of the film, in which Cody, Chicken Joe and the bastardly Tank battle it out for supremacy of the waves, are truly beautiful to watch. It's simply impossible to watch these scenes and not feel a pang of jealousy for all those real-life surfers out there.

Children will doubtlessly love "Surf's Up" but more discerning adults will probably find it something of a washout. There is no doubt that the current crop of CGI animation movies will be looked upon in the future as a golden age of mainstream animation but "Surf's Up" defintely won't merit much of a mention. 

Now showing in Estonia. Opens Oct. 12 in Latvia. Opens Oct. 18 in Lithuania

Please enter your username and password.