It has been a successful year for penguins. They have walked, marched, tap danced and now they are surfing.
With its mockumentary style approach, directors Ash Brannon and Chris Buck ‘s new computer animated film “Surf’s Up” fails to compete with some of their previous work – “Toy Story”, “A Bug’s Life”, “Chicken Little”, “Tarzan” and so on.
Similar to Mumble, the conquering hero of “Happy Feet”, “Surf’s Up” lead character Cody Maverick, voiced by Shia LaBeouf, finds himself out of place in his town of Shiverpool, Antarctica, where he is the only surfing penguin.
When salvation arrives in the form of a fussy talent scout Mikey Abromowitz, voiced by Mario Cantone, Cody leaves his ungrateful family behind to be part of the most dangerous form of surfing, the Penguin World Surfing Championship.
Trying to follow the footsteps of his idol Big Z, voiced by Jeff Bridges, Cody places himself in an uncompromising situation on Pen Gu Island when he falls for a lifeguard named Lani, voiced by Zooey Deschanel.
What he does not know however, is that a secret awaits him on the very same tropical island.
Even with its successful cast, “Surf’s Up” storyline goes too fast, not allowing any room for character development. The audience is left questioning the characters background and motives.
Although a brief history of Cody’s passion for surfing is given , there is no back story about Chicken Joe, voiced by Jon Heder, Cody’s rooster surfing buddy who is so “chill” that when a penguin tribe tries to stew him, he thinks they are giving him a hot bath.
Despite a funny yet fast-paced storyline, the film differs from previous penguin movies in terms of its rating. Despite its PG rating, “Surf’s Up” uses quite a few sexual innuendos that are unnecessary and probably too complicated for kids to understand.
Nonetheless, the film proves how far computer animation has come along. Not only are the movie visuals so colorful that it can keep any child awake, but with a realistic beach setting, the audience can easily forget that the waves on screen are animated rather than real. Also, the directors decision to use real-life professional surfers, Kelly Slater and Rob Machado, to voice their penguin character helps keep the storyline alive and kickin’.
Another gripping aspect of the film is the soundtrack. With tracks from 311, Incubus, Pearl Jam, Sugar Ray, New Radicals and so on, it allows the audience to move along to the songs which set the “surfing” mood.
Fans of other animated films such as “Happy Feet” and Madagascar may enjoy “Surf’s Up” as it provides a fresh take on 2007 most exposed animal.
Despite its surfer-tuned soundtrack and realistic animation, “Surf’s Up” still does not Hang 10.