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First off, I got the chance to watch the Hollywood premiere here in Hawaii with the cast being there to watch it too. Due to the recent release of penguin movies, a lot of people are turned off by them. Please do not judge it so. I admit, at first I was turned off by it being a penguin movie and I couldn't think of anything new. Although this type of story has been told before (what story hasn't?), it's always interesting to see how it will be presented. And I liked it. The characters and events keep you in the movie. Yes, you're gonna have to deal with penguins and their habitats, but it won't be for long. And besides, this is no happy feet, which I liked also. This movie has an amazing cast with enjoyable characters. So be ready to laugh your butt off because I pretty much was. Great family fun movie, or just a movie for you. Now I regret watching it so early (May 20, 2007) because now I have to wait until June 8 to watch it again. = (
As an old surfer, and a lover of penguins, I was totally PUMPED for
this movie! So I went out to see it last night, and I laughed several
times. One of the most awesome things to me, was how Big Z encompassed
the ideal of just having fun and letting everything go while you surf.
You've got to watch it to see that, but really, this movie is
spectacular. The animation is great, the characters develop nicely, and
the "documentary" format adds to the humor aspect of it.
I don't know about the comparisons to Happy Feet, but it seems rather weird to get all upset because there's another penguin movie out on the market. Bottom line, for me, is that this movie was very fun to watch, and I thought it had some classic bits of humor. It may be a bit too much for some younger kids, but it was great for me. I loved this movie!
It's not the funniest animated movie you've ever seen -- most of the
jokes are amusing, rather than laugh-out-loud -- but it does the job.
Sometimes the humor just seems to be "it's penguins doing human things -- get it?"
But it's fast-moving, colorful, and the voice cast is good. (Fortunately, they didn't give Jon Heder too much to do, so he wasn't out of his depth.)
Shia LeBeouf was very good (esp. considering how young he is). Several of us thought it was Bruce Willis doing the character of Cody. Snappy and smart. I liked Mario Cantone as the snarky sandpiper.
The animation is so deft you can actually see subtle emotions play over the faces of these birds. The waves sometimes look real, not animation.
There's a lot of stuff about surfing. Seemed like one of those old surfing documentaries sometimes. I didn't know if the kids could follow all that -- but the 3 little girls sitting in front of me pronounced the movie "fantastic" afterwards, so I guess it did its job.
It's easy to roll your eyes when you see yet another animated movie
starring talking animals, and what more, talking penguins. Guess you
can credit the popularity of our feathered friends from down south to
award winning films like the documentary which started it all, March of
the Penguins, and the other animated movies Madagascar (where they were
scene stealers) and Happy Feet. But before you actually decide to pass
on this one, Surf's Up a surprisingly refreshing tale set in the bright
sunny beaches with laid back "dude" attitude, which doesn't seem to try
too hard to please, and comes up just about right.
One of the good things about the movie is the voice talent featured. Like Happy Feet, it contains some recognizable names, but just as a reminder to our Legend of the Sea friends, big names doesn't necessarily equate to good voice acting. Shia LeBeouf (a name which we will see quite frequently over the next few months with Transformers and Disturbia) gets the lead role of Cody Maverick, a surfer penguin wannabe who dreams of making it big in the surfing community. His idol is Big Z (Jeff Bridges), a world champion who had made an impression on a young Cody. However, Big Z is presumed missing in action during one competition, and the new world champion, Tank Evans (Diedrich Bader) looks set to retain his status for the umpteenth time.
The supporting characters too are a delight, with Zooey Deschanel as a Baywatch lifeguard babe and James Woods as a sports tzar, and Jon Heder continues his stereotype by playing Cody's new best friend Chicken Joe, a chilled out surfing chicken who finds himself at probably the wrong place each time and associating with the wrong species.
What made this movie work is that the filmmakers recognize they have to come up with a narrative style that is different in order to engage, and given that it's a sports type movie, they went for a sports entertainment channel style, complete with replicating camera techniques including details like less than perfect wireless camera transmissions (love those on-board cameras, nevermind if it doesn't make complete sense or is illogical), over the top channel transition sequences, and you just gotta love those faux pas interviews with just about every character. If you can't get enough of baby penguins, the filmmakers too are shrewd enough to include these crowd favourite characters in endearing scenes.
With Father's Day mood all round, this movie is apt too for the season, given its theme of family, and bonding with (surrogate) father types. The humour injected ranges wide, from subtle lines and references, to the more obvious physical slapstick moments. I can't resist but to again advise our Legend of the Sea friends, this is what computer animation is about, with its depiction of photo realistic quality of the sun, sand and the sea, with realistic surfer moves, a simple story yet packed with adequate thematic moments, with song and music that don't irritate, but serve to move the narrative along smartly.
Recommended animated movie, despite the overused penguin characters. Stay until after the end credits for a short scene (there's also one played during the credits, so don't walk out of the hall just yet).
This film is great for the whole family. As a non-pixar film, my husband and I though it would be cute for our pre-schooler, but we didn't expect it to be as much fun as it was for our enjoyment. The mocumentary-style animation was refreshing and adorable. It was incredibly witty, and the story was classic! The animation itself rivaled the realness that pixar turns out - I couldn't take my eyes off the details in the penguins' markings and the clarity of the ocean scenes. Shia did an excellent job with the voice as well. I didn't think his voice would be recognizable enough to pull off a lead animation character, but because he's got such excitement and energy in his voice, you could really see him through the animated character. I'd recommend this to anyone. As my 3 year old has been saying since we left the theater: "I like penguin movie."
The previews drew me in, and when a rainy weekend coincided with Surf's
Up coming to the local theater I went. Here I am old enough to be a
grandmother and I love animated films. And the animation makes the
film. The water is surreal in how lifelike it is with all the
variegation of color. The plot of little guy, big dreams, dream crash,
dream re-found, and priorities set straight is definitely cliché. It's
how it all gets there, is what we spend our $5.00 matinée for. The
voice talent is perfect: Jeff Bridges as the laid back Z, Shia LaBeouf
the young hero in the making, Jon Heder as a stoned chicken from
Michigan, and Zooey Deschanel as the good-hearted lifeguard who keeps
secrets well. They made the movie flow.
As for the penchant of "children" movies using poop and pee for laugh lines--I ask why? It didn't add to the movie, and it certainly lowers it. It's as if they are afraid the movie won't hold up on its own without a bit of naughty and disgusting jokes. Hey, leave it alone and let the movie go. Urinating and flatulent penguins just aren't that funny. Lots of other funny stuff. Like I said to the floor sweeper when he asked me, "Was it any good?" It had it's moments.
They both have penguins. Big Deal. Whoops...does that count as a comment? Anyway, "Surfs Up" is not a terribly original but fresh and new hilarious comedy just in time to kick off summer. Shot in a unique mocumentary style (that may possibly fly over the heads of youngsters), the visuals are flashy and the look of the film digests well. Water animation seems to be rapidly progressing. The sand forms foot prints. The palm fronds sway in the wind. The film looks great. The story is a cliché, and we know what will happen in the end. The point of the film isn't however to construct philosophical debate, have an amazing story or even create memorable characters. It's a fun comedy, and it's humor is more sophisticated then other past animated comedies such are "Shrek 3". It has a more subtle reflexive quality. We know the story, the characters, and we know the familiar plot (quite like last year's "Cars"), but it isn't the fact that they're penguins that makes the film funny. We only get a few moments were the penguins act "penguiny". They are what they are for pure aesthetic value. A bipedal animal (perfect for surfing) that usually dwells among ice makes for a more pleasing artistic scope. And we're bored with humans. The film succeeds with it's sense of wit. A character like tank, another reflexive villainous character like Peter La Fleur from "Dodgeball", is a hoot to watch. The same for main protagonist Cody Maverick, a familiar trophy craving teen who is easily out of place amongst the elders. The film will win no Oscars, but animated films need not be restricted to epic stories and exercises in perfection. However, it is rather uncomfortable that the genre in America is restricting itself to this type of humor. Or really, does all animation have to be humorous even? But, at least this film takes the convention one step further. The documentary style doesn't wear out its welcome or include any truly objectable material for a PG film, and with a sparing running time of 85 minutes, it's fun to see something different.
Cody Maverick(Shia LeBouf), a rock-hopper penguin and native of
Shiverpool, Antarctica, truly lives up to his surname, unlike his
highly domestic mother and brother. He seems quite talented as far as
finding his own way--he surfs when others fish, surfs when others sit
on eggs, he surfs because that's who he is. The legend of Big Z, the
emperor penguin who changed surfing forever, helped to make Maverick a
maverick. So when neurotic event liaison bird Mikey Abromowitz (Mario
Cantone) appears with a chance to compete in the annual "Big Z
Memorial" competition, Cody literally jumps into the chance. Along the
way, he meets characters such as Joe (Jon Heder, well-cast once again),
a surfing chicken from Michigan, and Lani Aliikai (Zooey Deschanel), a
lifeguard penguin who also knows a thing or two about Big Z. Like most
other heroes of animated film, Cody learns something about what really
matters, but don't let that put you off. This is some true summer fun,
kept low-key, which, hopefully, will make this the sleeper hit of
summer. Everyone is nicely cast, and the characters are easy to care
about (that's saying a lot for modern cinema right there). The film
looks wonderful as well--nice character design almost gets dwarfed by
the environments, as the folks at Sony Animation show that they have
successfully taught computers the difference between freezing, harsh
Antarctic Ocean and beautiful, blue, tropical ocean. Truly stunning.
I feel I should also mention the soundtrack; no Beach Boys, but still appropriate. If you've been waiting to hear Incubus, Green Day, or Lauryn Hill in more film soundtracks, now's your chance. The mockumentary approach makes it even more engaging while amping the laughs. Christopher Guest would be proud. All in all, if you're looking for a break from all the holler and hoopla that summer movies bring, and as Big Z says, you're ready to just have some fun, catch a wave...
Anyone who knows me, knows that I love me some penguin. Of course, I am
referring to the line of clothing and not the waddling bird.
Regardless, I too fell in love with the emperor penguins along with the
rest of the world a couple of years back when THE MARCH OF THE PENGUINS
swept the summer documentary box office. That was the same summer the
mischievous animated penguins of MADAGASCAR had people begging for more
(which they were unfortunately given months later with the dreadfully
drab short, A Christmas CAPER). Penguins were all the rage. After
winning the Best Documentary Oscar, the penguin love only continued to
grow with the holiday hit, HAPPY FEET. The premise there, after
essentially crafting an animated reenactment of the mating ritual
outlined in the aforementioned documentary, penguins sing to express
themselves while one dances instead. HAPPY FEET was a big success and
went on to a surprising win for Best Animated Feature at last year's
Academy Awards. And so the trend continues with another animated
feature about penguins, SURF'S UP. Only now it may seem the public is
growing weary of these tuxed-up birds. Perhaps there is only so much
penguin love to go around. It's a shame really because SURF'S UP may be
the best of the (animated) bunch.
To differentiate itself from all the previous penguin fare, SURF'S UP, is constructed as a mockumentary. To capture an on-the-cuff style, a special motion capture camera system was mounted to an old Sony video camera to give the illusion that the movie was shot with a hand-held camera. Factor in jump cuts and film scratches from different stocks and you have a style that is both authentic and dynamic. A film crew (voiced by the actual directors, Ash Brannon and Chris Buck) has decided to follow an aspiring surfer by the name of Cody Maverick (voiced by Shia LaBeouf) on his journey that begins at his humble home in Shiverpool to the Penguin World Surfing Championship. With blizzards gusting in the background at home and forestry looking lush and wet at the championship, SURF'S UP uses nature to not only establish its fish-out-of-water story but to wow its audience. The beauty of the animation itself is enough to make SURF'S UP a serious contender come award season when the waves of praise come crashing ashore.
Set amidst these beautiful backdrops is a bevy of lovable, genuinely hilarious characters. What is perhaps the film's strongest achievement is the spontaneity it creates in a style that is so meticulously designed and planned. The penguins sincerely seem as if they are on camera. They are both uncomfortable and candid. At home, Cody is surrounded by his doting, doubtful mother (Dana Belben) and over-sized, pesky brother (Brian Posehn). The tension in this family is palpable and unnervingly funny. En route to the competition, Cody comes into contact with talent scout, Mikey Abromowitz (Mario Cantone), whose neurosis run through his head almost as fast as his little bird legs run on land and an oddball surfer/ rooster named Chicken Joe (Jon Heder), who is as laid back (read potentially stoned) as one would expect a surfer to be. Cody is taken under wing by a former surfer named Geek (Jeff Bridges) once at the competition and their playful interactions keep your gliding through to the finals. SURF'S UP packs in more unexpected laughs than one would expect and the fact that they are unexpected is what makes it so incredible.
SURF'S UP also makes sure to bang home an important lesson for the kids. After all, this is a summer family film and there needs to be a lesson learned. Cody learns a number of things along his way but they all amount to understanding a thing or two about patience. "Winning isn't everything" and "There are more important things to life than winning" make appearances but what is most important is the philosophy that will help Cody win out overall. Stop fighting and learn to ride the wave. It is a lesson that even the filmmakers should have heeded as there are times when the imposing hand of the powers that be can be felt in the film's construction to ensure it is as marketable as possible. Oddly placed soundtrack choices and shots that could not have been caught by documentary filmmakers undermine the credibility of the mockumentary but hardly take away from the fun to be had. SURF'S UP will surprise you, crack you up and leave you wanting to catch the wave again and again.
The only question left to answer is whether polar bears will be over saturating the marketplace after the people who brought you THE MARCH OF THE PENGUINS bring you AN ARCTIC TALE later this summer.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Although I'm not the biggest fan of them- mostly because I'm not from
an area that has much of the activity around- surfing documentaries
like The Endless Summer 1 and 2 have gone through my sights here and
there over the years, and it's at least really admirable to see people
with a knack that they work at for much of their adolescent/adult
lives. The need on the part of the filmmakers of Surf's Up to combine a
super-duper conventional storyline with the theatrics of a mockumentary
somehow evens out because, simply, it's a funny movie. It's not near
the unconventional and bizarrely rich heights of Happy Feet, nor is it
informative about the actual creatures (mostly) on display in the
picture. In a way, the filmmakers didn't need to use penguins as the
surfers, but somehow aside from the given ironic gesture (hey, they're
from Antarctica after all) it works because when it comes down to it
they're animated creatures serving the purposes of the story and
big-time sight gags. And there are quite a few of the latter.
Maybe it's too goofy to really put high on a pedestal as a 'must-see' movie, but I can't really think of many other movies out now that would be more relaxing in a comfortable absurd entertainment than this (or, for that matter, with some cool vibes on a Saturday afternoon at home). It's about an ambitious young penguin who makes it out of his antarctic area (named after Liverpool, of course), and is ready to go all the way in the "Big Z" surfing championship, named after a late infamous surfer. But then through the old twist of fate, he discovers that Z isn't dead, but just in hiding, and becomes an apprentice in a very brief time. A lot of the little twists involved, even with the supporting characters (a chicken voiced by Jon Heder brings out some of the biggest laughs; James Woods is brilliant in one-note form as a Don King styled dastardly business manager to the surfers), can be seen right away. But when taking aside that, the real pleasures of Surf's Up- a movie that looks like from the trailer that it will be really, really stupid- involve the goofy charms and jokes aimed at possibly more mature viewers than the little kids obsessed with penguins.
For one thing, Z is voiced by the best man for the job, Jeff Bridges, who takes part of his Dude character from Big Lebowski and takes on part of the cool mentor; a scene where he shows his young pupil how to fashion a surfboard is classic. For another thing the 'documentary' style sometimes comes in handy for a joke or two (hey, there's a boom mic, and lets have instant replay again and again for a big surf blunder). But above all else it works all as a consistently silly comedy, with only one lapse with the training montage and the only other bother a few unnecessary songs. Where else will we see a little penguin waddling out to the ocean to yell for help just to get attention of the cute penguin lifeguard? And where else will there be suggestive innuendo with the antagonist surfer who's ego has spread to his love for his 'ladies' as his surfing trophies? And the 'natives' are a gas in the same simple mainstream way that were shown in Dead Man's Chest. It's smartly filmed and never too boring, and it's got a real light touch that works for kids and adults, with equal time for absurdity for each.
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