The surf’s radical, dude

2007-12-03 00:00

Penguins have plagued cinemas this year. By now, we should know all about them — what they do, where they march to and the emotional state of their feet. The latest on penguins? They surf.

Thankfully, this isn’t as much a film about penguins as it is about surfing. For me, that’s a relief. Okay, I’ll admit my prejudice: animated films and surfing are good things. (Very good things.) But regardless of me, Surf’s Up is genius, novel, feel-good fun. This is the best film involving penguins I’ve ever seen.

So basically, it’s a surfing mockumentary. The animated characters are constantly narrating their story to a handheld camera — a novel jolt — and at the centre is Cody Maverick (voiced by Shia LaBoeuf) who resides in Antarctica in a place called Shiverpool (get it?). Surfing legend Big Z (Jeff Daniels) visits young Cody as he’s growing up and gives him a necklace, along with a message of “never give up”. Shortly afterwards Big Z is presumed dead after disappearing on a huge wave.

Later, the aspiring Cody is discovered by a talent scout and gets his shot at the Big Z Memorial Surfing Contest, where there’s a bunch of laughs waiting: SPEN (Sports Penguin Entertainment Network) promoted by a Don King rip-off called Reggie (James Woods) and the hilarious laid-back chicken surfer Chicken Joe (Jon Heder).

With pleasant digs at the likes of Endless Summer and various reality TV shows, Surf’s Up offers some witty, sharp film-making. The actors recorded the script off the cuff together, rather than individually in sound booths. The result is a far more fluid and engaging story between the characters and a first-class execution of some interesting ideas. Some of the humour will fly over the heads of the little tykes, but adults will enjoy the film’s ingenuity.

Maybe I’m biased. Big deal. I loved it. *****

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