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  Publicity Still of "Surf's Up"
(Courtesy of Columbia TriStar)

CG Animation
Director: Ashley Brannon and Chris Buck
Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Jeff Bridges, Zooey Deschanel, James Woods, Jane Krakowski, Jon Heder, Mario Cantone, Brian Benben, Michael McKean
RunTime: 1 hr 27 mins
Released By: Columbia TriStar
Rating: G
Official Website: www.surfingpenguins.com.sg


Opening Day: 20 June 2007


A comedy that delves behind the scenes of the high-octane world of competitive surfing, profiling teenage Rockhopper penguin Cody Maverick, an up-and-coming surfer, as he enters his first pro competition. Cody leaves his family and home in Shiverpool, Antartica to travel to Pen Gu Island for the Big Z Memorial Surf Off. Cody believes that winning will bring him the admiration and respect he desires but when he unexpectedly comes face-to-face with a washed-up old surfer named Geek, Cody begins to find his own way and discovers that a true winner isn't always the one who comes in first.

Movie Review:

If you thought these monochromatically coated birds from the Antarctic couldn’t get any cooler, then its time you watched Surf’s Up. This witty, energetic mockumentary styled movie oozes so much cool you’d wish you were a surfer dude- no, wait- a penguin surfer dude, by the end of the movie. In terms of animated features, hardly any comes close to Surf’s Up in terms of natural humour, wit and delivery of quality popcorn-flick goodness. Starring up-and-coming Hollywood duo Shia LaBeouf (Transformers! Brownie points..) and Jon Heder (whose spectacularly slapstick performance in Blades Of Glory makes me grateful this was an animated feature), Surf’s Up avoids the big distractions, type-casting and star-spotting of voices that often occur with mega-star dubbed animated features, allowing the animated characters to really shine through and carry the film through.

Chris Buck (Tarzan, 1999) and Ash Brannon serves up good, clean laughs in this movie which tells the story of penguin surfer Cody (LaBeouf) at the penguin surfing championships. The key winner for this film is its narrative takes that involves camera crews, behind the scenes footage, interviews that play on the classic media coverage of sporting events, with hilarious results. Right from the start, we get good clean entertainment as the classic hilarity of the animals’ nuances playing off their very human personas is harnessed the great effect. Although the start doesn’t feel as engaging as it could have been, the movie soon catches on as Cody charms amidst his surf-off competitor Chicken Joe (Heder), under the guidance of Geek, a yesteryear surfer dude. Yes, though the movie sinks into the feel-good be yourself mould that one might recall most recently in the touching Disney feature, Cars, the seemingly rehashed tale of a misguided prodigy turned good under a “teacher” past his former glory adds good weight to the plot. It prevented Surf’s Up from turning belly up with purely lightweight comedy content.

Visually, Surf’s Up can easily take to the waves and match Happy Feet A-Frame for A-Frame. Just like the perfect “barrelling surf”, Surf’s Up cinematically astounding environment brings the surfing competition to life as every splash and every wave, every rush of water brings the expansive ocean to life in the movie. While Happy Feet soon turned draggy and meaningless for me (what dancing penguins filling up the last 20 minutes?), Surf’s Up goes for rapid, scene by scene delivery of either action, quality characterisation or humour, often a combination of the three. If Morgan Freeman and his March of the Penguins were the Encyclopaedia Britannica of penguins and Happy Feet was a picturesque but wordless kids photobook, Surf’s Up is a classic Marvel comic of penguin sand, surf and fun. Expect scene after scene of quick paced, light-hearted and in-your-face humour that stops short of being irreverent or cheesy, something Happily N’Ever After was heinously guilty of.

The only downside of Surf’s Up is that it weighs in at an extremely lightweight 85 minutes, which takes a bit off the shine when it comes to giving this movie a score. If put to the test of producing a meatier, longer feature, Surf’s Up might not last on its ultimately well-executed but formulaic content. Still, I’d rather not find out. After all, its an animated feature, and for what its worth, it was a pretty enjoyable and exhilarating surf.

Movie Rating:

(Enjoy the thrill while it lasts!)

Review by Daniel Lim


. Ratatouille (2007)

. Happy Feet (2006)

. Open Season (2006)

. Monster House (2006)

. Valiant (2005)

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