“‘Surf’s Up’ is an animated feature that goes behind the scenes of the high-octane world of competitive penguin surfing. The film profiles Cody Maverick, an up-and-coming surfer as he enters his first pro competition. Inspired by his hero, a legendary wave rider named Big Z, Cody leaves his family and his town of Shiverpool, Antarctica 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 The Geek, Cody begins to understand that the greatest champion isn’t always the one who comes in first.”
“Surf’s Up (Widescreen Special Edition)” is rated PG for mild language and some rude humor.
First of all, it is filmed in documentary style format. The camerawork is jerky and loose. The dialogue isn’t polished and is quite frequently improvised. It all comes together to make a laid back, free flowing, funny story. The voice cast helps a lot with this, too. Shia LaBeouf has always been great at improvisation and that skill helps tremendously in his role as Cody Maverick. His dialogue is obviously not all scripted and he manages to make Cody an imperfect but likable underdog. Jeff Bridges is also a natural at voice acting as Big Z / Geek. He’s so good that it’s a wonder we haven’t heard him in more animated movies. The rest of the cast also hold their own and deliver their own improvisations. The supporting cast includes Zooey Deschanel as Lani Aliikai, Jon Heder as Chicken Joe, James Woods as Reggie Belafonte, and Diedrich Bader as Tank Evans. The creators even manage to make the documentary filmmakers behind the cameras characters in the film. It all comes together to make a great cast.
The animation is also incredibly well done. Not only do they perfect the aforementioned documentary camera style, but they do amazingly realistic looking waves, penguin feathers, jungles, and more. It is so detailed that they even include water on the camera lens when it emerges from waves. Every frame of the movie is beautiful from both a technical and artistic point of view. The animators should be really proud of this work.
Finally, and most importantly, this story is funny for both children and adults. Kids will enjoy the physical humor and potty humor. Adults will appreciate the subtle humor and not so subtle humor. It’s a perfect family film.
I’d highly recommend “Surf’s Up” to fans of animation, fans of Shia LaBeouf and Jeff Bridges, and anyone that likes mockumentaries. It may resemble “Happy Feet” on the surface, but they are completely different, and good, animated films.
There are a lot of bonus features included on this DVD, some of which are geared towards kids and some towards adults. Kids will enjoy the games such as Make Your Own Surfboard, Whale Hopping, and Lava Surf. Arnold’s Zurfinary, which explains surfing terminology, is also geared towards the kiddies. “Meet the penguins with Mario Cantone” shows the actor escorting two live penguins around the production. Finally, the new short “The Chubbchubbs Save Xmas” provides lots of holiday laughs for both kids and adults. (Look for cameos by ET, Ewoks, and the Death Star.) Meanwhile, for the adults, they’ve included extensive documentaries on the animation for the waves, the technology behind the shaky CG documentary camera, and more. We also get to see almost all the cast recording their dialogue in “The Surf’s Up voice sessions”. You really begin to appreciate the extent of improvisation when viewing this. A few deleted scenes, Easter eggs, and a commentary can also be found.