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Surf's Up
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77 out of 99 people found the following review useful:

Not just another penguin movie...

8/10
Author: ekproject from Honolulu, HI
22 May 2007

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. = (

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72 out of 90 people found the following review useful:

I loved this movie!

9/10
Author: john-beard from Japan
9 June 2007

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!

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59 out of 83 people found the following review useful:

Hang 7

7/10
Author: Kristen Kallahan from Seattle WA USA
5 June 2007

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.

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41 out of 50 people found the following review useful:

A Nutshell Review: Surf's Up

8/10
Author: DICK STEEL from Singapore
16 June 2007

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).

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46 out of 62 people found the following review useful:

Excellent Family Film

10/10
Author: Elizabeth Cunningham from United States
11 June 2007

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."

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42 out of 55 people found the following review useful:

Surg and Surfing

8/10
Author: pdwebbsite from United States
10 June 2007

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.

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33 out of 48 people found the following review useful:

I will not comment on Happy Feet in this review

6/10
Author: GSmith9072 from United States
8 June 2007

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.

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28 out of 39 people found the following review useful:

"...and you're sittin' on top of the world..."

8/10
Author: Cel_Stacker from United States
8 June 2007

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...

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18 out of 25 people found the following review useful:

Ride the Wave!

8/10
Author: Joseph Belanger (joseph.belanger@gmail.com) from Montreal
16 June 2007

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.

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8 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Dances all over Happy Feet!

8/10
Author: Simon Parker from United Kingdom
15 August 2007

What is it with this sudden surge of penguin movies appearing? Or penguins appearing in movies? I've always found watching penguins on real life TV programmes to be very entertaining because they just seem, well there's no other word for it, cute. But just recently Hollywood has seemed to start to overuse them a tiny bit. March of the Penguins I suppose really kicked it all off. I can't see what all the fuss was about that documentary and quite why it was the success it was. But it was an interesting movie. Then came along Madagascar, while admittedly not completely about penguins the penguins that did feature were undoubtedly the best things in the entire movie. Since then penguin items, TV shows and penguins on our screens have been appearing like crazy. It reached its pinnacle in my eyes last year when Happy Feet arrived on our big screens. Now I really wanted to love Happy Feet, when I first watched it I actually did adore it. But after multiple viewings I realised something, it was actually pretty boring, and way too depressing at times for my liking. Its animations was beautiful, but it just didn't live up to its potential. When the first trailers for Surf's Up arrived I didn't know what to make of it. Dancing penguins is one things, surfing penguins is just plain ludicrous. I felt like Sony were merely cashing in on this penguin phenomenon. So what a pleasant surprise to find that Surf's Up is not only a movie that'll appeal to both kids and adults, but also the best animated movie of the year so far! The fact that its a surfing penguin movie didn't make it as good as it is, no the movie succeeds for daring to try something different. A mockumentary style movie somewhat reminiscent of Creature Comforts, trust me if you like Creature Comforts you will adore this movie. The script is well written, the voice cast absolutely brilliant, hell even the animation surprised me for being very well done. If it has one fault its that its obligatory sentimental streak felt a little bit too forced for my liking. Nevertheless this is a small fault in an otherwise enjoyable and very well made animated movie.

The voice cast of the movie are particularly brilliant. Shia Labeouf leads the cast as surfer wannabe Cody. Labeouf was until recently one of the few actors I could not stand to see on a screen. My past experiences with him on movies were usually films that cast him as the annoying kid. For this reason I couldn't stand him. However, then he starred in Transformers and changed my mind completely. He is actually a great actor, he can deliver a joke easily, he's easily likable and he just does everything in such a great way. This shines through again with his performance here, and because of his work in this movie I would be quite happy to see him lead another animated movie some time in the future. His character is always funny, he definitely gets some of the best lines and moments in the movie. Jeff Bridges is pretty good in his role, he works best in the funny moments of the films, when it comes to the sentimental stuff I just found his voice work to be not as good. Jon Heder almost runs off with the movie as Chicken Joe, who got the biggest laugh from the audience. Zooey Deschanel was average I suppose, her character deals more with the icky stuff towards the end than the great comedy stuff. James Woods seems to be having a great time as Reggie, he also gets some great comedy moments.

The actual comedy side of Surf's Up is perhaps the movie greatest success. The mockumentary style allows us to see a different way of making animated movies. The movie of course has to switch to a more movie-ish feel at some points, its in these moments the movie isn't at its best. Whenever they're doing the documentary style the movie is as perfect as you could hope for. Meeting Cody's family at the beginning is pretty hilarious, and meeting all the other supporting characters, especially Tank who has the best scene of the movie with his trophies, is definitely the movies highlights. If you are planning to see this I highly suggest you watch the characters in the background more so than the characters in the foreground, they made me laugh all the time to see them waving at the camera or pulling faces behind the other characters backs. Chicken Joe is definitely best comically, the best scene with him involves a hot tub and the natives, its pretty hilarious, a shame most of the joke is ruined in the trailers.

So what are the negatives of the movie then? Well I suppose if I look at this from a kids point of view then I realise that there are a lot of jokes that might leave the kids a bit cold. The kids will still be entertained for the majority of the movie, especially during the very cool looking surfing sequences, but some of the humour is more directly aimed at adults than anyone else. Also the sentimentality factor obviously starts to kick in towards the end. While its never sickly like a lot of other animated movies are, it still feels a tad forced. I wish for once we could have a kids movie without all the obligatory kiss and make up feel at the end of it. Why can't everyone just still hate each other or something like that? Anyway the sentimentality never makes the film bad at all, its still a great movie.

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