Surf's Up (2007)

Genres - Children's/Family  |   Sub-Genres - Family-Oriented Comedy, Mockumentary  |   Release Date - Jun 8, 2007 (USA), Jun 8, 2007 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 85 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom , United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Derek Armstrong

All penguined out after the one-two punch of March of the Penguins and Happy Feet? Well, save room for one more. Despite potentially seeming like a crass grab at the tuxedoed coattails of these other penguin movies, Surf's Up is a funny, warm, and highly enjoyable salute to the ever-cinematic sport of surfing. It also happens to be the world's first feature-length animated mockumentary. Surf's Up expands on the logic of the outtakes included in the closing credits of Pixar films -- outtakes designed purely to break the fourth wall, since cartoons aren't actually capable of flubbing their lines. An animated documentary has the same effect of making its universe "really real," which allows viewers to effortlessly embrace the characters and the scenarios. (Plus, it's funny to watch interviewed penguins banter with the boom operator.) The imaginary hubs of wave-riding activity featured here, from the jutting ice floes of Antarctica to the gnarled rocks of Pen Gu Island, are glorious and inspired. But the true inspiration comes in the vocal casting. Surf's Up opts for a refreshing slate of animation newcomers, including Shia LaBeouf displaying his usual charming pluck, Zooey Deschanel easily transplanting her wry sarcasm, Jeff Bridges excelling as the superficially cranky mentor, and Jon Heder as a stoner-like chicken named Joe. Co-director Chris Buck also helmed Disney's Tony Hawk-influenced Tarzan, and those extreme-sports sensibilities seem to further benefit him here. Did Surf's Up have to be about penguins? Maybe not, but a wintry bird excelling at a summer pastime just adds to the underdog quality that makes films like this click. Add in the fact that it doubles as a lampoon of/homage to the great surfing documentaries, such as The Endless Summer and Riding Giants, and surf junkies should be just as geeked for it as their kids.