Riding the wave of animated penguins, Surf's Up winningly combines a familiar plotline with a unique point-of-view

Surf's Up

on June 08, 2007 by Wade Major
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Taking the Happy Feet phenomenon one giant webbed-step further, Sony Pictures Animation's Surf's Up squeezes an unlikely premise and configures it into one of the season's more refreshing surprises.

Cody Maverick (Shia LaBeouf) is an Antarctic penguin with a jones for surfing. Not that there aren't penguin surfers—like Cody's idol Big Z—they just don't come from Cody's neck of the ice, which makes Cody something of an outcast, even in his own family. But when the chance arises to compete in an international surfing competition, Cody eagerly hops a whale and heads for the South Pacific. Even still, there's trouble in the tropical paradise: The reigning champion, Tank Evans (Diedrich Bader), is a first class son-of-a-chick who wastes no time humiliating the newcomer and all but dashing his dreams. But with the help of a wise old burnout (Jeff Bridges), a spacey chicken (Jon Heder) and a cute female lifeguard (Zooey Deschanel), Cody just might have one last shot at putting it all together.

It's a routine plot in nearly all respects, essentially following the same trajectory common to most animated films with young male protagonists, from Pinocchio to The Jungle Book to Happy Feet . But directors Ash Brannon ( Toy Story 2 ) and Chris Buck ( Tarzan ) aren't aiming for the rafters—a pleasant, diverting and altogether enjoyable time for adults and children is all that Surf's Up is meant to be, and that's precisely what it delivers. That's not to say that the filmmakers play it safe—staging much of the picture from the point of view of a documentary crew is a decidedly unorthodox first for an animated feature. But they also understand that in a summer already bloated with sequels and big-budget tentpoles, a smart little counterprogrammer like Surf's Up can still turn up a winner without necessarily being a champion.
Distributor: Columbia
Voices: Shia LaBeouf, Jeff Bridges, Zooey Deschanel, Jon Heder, James Woods, Diedrich Bader and Mario Cantone
Director: Ash Brannon and Chris Buck
Screenwriters: Don Rhymer and Ash Brannon & Chris Buck & Christopher Jenkins
Producer: Christopher Jenkins
Genre: Animation
Rating: PG for mild language and some rude humor
Running time: 85 min.
Release date: June 8, 2007
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