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Surf's Up (2007)
Go with the grain...
After watching this film (with a lot of distractions) on the plane on the way to Florida in November, I decided to rent it from Amazon and I watched it last night. I immediately ordered a copy of my own. It's not the best animated feature ever, and has the usual simplistic plot and makes a lot of use of standard gags (is there ANY CGI film produced since 2000 that has NO fart jokes in it, I wonder?).
However, the film is totally saved by the novel approach to dialogue. There is a feature on the DVD that reveals the way they recorded the voices. They had several actors present at a time, and encouraged them to overlap and ad lib. The result is very natural, and sounds exactly right for a "documentary with interviews" approach, which is what they were going for. It works perfectly. Many of the scenes (especially the one with the three kids) remind me of Aardman's "Creature Comforts", which is certainly not a bad thing! This is basically a "feel-good" film, and although I've never even stood on a surf board myself, I felt that I had joined the surfer community by watching this - so they have evidently done a great job of making the viewer feel part of the story.
In fact, it had such an effect on me that this morning, when I had to scrape ice off my car before leaving for work, I found myself doing it with loooong, slooooow stroooookes. Duuuuuuuuuude (you'll have to watch the film to find out the significance of that). It was actually very relaxing, and set me up for the day :)
Happy Feet (2006)
Watch more than once!
I've recently come to realise that the recent new style of big-screen animation is something that is best enjoyed several times to bring out the full flavour. Happy Feet is a very good example of this. On first viewing, I came away slightly dissatisfied, for two reasons. One was the slightly awkward live action shots near the end that drive home the environmental message. It's a good message, but it felt a little out of place to have it done this way. The other reason was that I missed some of the dialogue, including the crucial moment near the end when Gloria informs Mumble that she is not spoken for: the result was that I ended the film thinking that they never got together, which as you can imagine was a strange experience.
When I watched this a second time, I fell in love with it. I couldn't believe the error I had made about the plot, and was kicking myself. I also was so blown away by the animation (another reviewer mentioned the blizzard shot - that's my favourite too), the music (John Powell is my hero), the dancing, the comedy - well, pretty much everything really - that the awkward scenes mentioned earlier just seemed to flash by and not matter to me at all.
This is a truly wonderful film in almost every sense, and the tribute to Steve Irwin included on the DVD was genuinely moving. Steve was an incredible man, and I salute Mr. Miller for including these words.
Movies are important. They represent one of the pinnacles of human collaboration, and those of us who enjoy knowing what effort goes into them almost as much as watching them can fully appreciate huge projects like this one. Especially when we watch them several times.
Very highly recommended!