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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Surf's Up

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Judy Thorburn

Surf's Up

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"SURF'S UP" - DELIVERS WAVES OF FUN FOR THE ENTIRE FAMILY

Flick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha Chemplavil

While the third installment of the tired franchise about an ugly but lovable ogre named Shrek is bringing in the bucks at the box office along comes this charming little animated feature about a surfing penguin, a far better flick that shouldn’t be lost amid the onslaught of disposable summer releases. Ever since the Oscar winning documentary March of the Penguins touched the heart of millions, capitalizing on the adorable little mammals’ effect on audiences has paid off in a big way. Last year’s Oscar winner for best animated film was another penguin flick, Happy Feet. So, here we go again with a nice little effort for the entire family.

What grabbed me initially about Surf’s Up is the clever and refreshing way the story is told. Unlike the usual straightforward narrative, Surf’s Up is presented as a mock documentary that takes the viewer behind the scenes and into the world of competitive surfing. The star of the reality type feature is Cody Maverick (rising star Shia La Beouf) an ambitious penguin who hopes of becoming a champion surfer in order to gain the respect from his family and peers. The film opens with the up and coming surfer being interviewed by an off screen reporter as he relates some biographical details of his life and talks about his surfing idol and inspiration, Zeke, known as big “Z” (Jeff Bridges) whom Cody met as a youngster and gave him a big Z medallion to wear around his neck. I like the way the filmmaker perfectly utililizes what is supposed to be archival footage in grainy black and white mm, and an occasional boom mic dropping into a scene which only adds to the reality factor.

The story moves on with the “reality” film crew following Cody as he says goodbye to his mom and big brother Glen in Shiverpool, Antartica and takes off to Pen Gu Island where he hopes to compete in his first big pro competition, the Big Z Memorial Surf Off, so named in honor of his fallen hero.

On the way Cody meets up with several “characters” who contribute their own style of quirky humor and interaction. Those he comes in contact with include spike haired beaver Reggie Belafonte (James Wood) a Don King style surfing promoter with a motormouth who sends out his scout, skinny footed, big eyed sandpiper Mikey Abromowitz (Mario Canton in flamboyant, gay voice mode) on a Global Recruiting Tour to find the next big thing; Chicken Joe (Jon Heder) a stoned out surfer dude from Sheboygen; a big brute, bullying nemesis Tank Evans (Diedrich Bader) and female lifeguard Lani (Zooey Deschanel) who grabs Cody’s heart the moment he sees her. In an unexpected twist of fate Cody’s life is saved by Lani’s hermit uncle, who just happens to be the long lost, thought to dead, surfer guru Big Z, in self imposed hiding for reasons we later discover.

As is predictable, Cody is taught a thing or two about surfing from Big Z especially when it comes to making his own surfboard and how to be the best he can be out there on the waves. In exhange Z learns a thing or two about what is really important in life.

Confict involves the mean, self obsessed villian Tank, Cody’s main competition who is out to stop anyone from taking away his title. In the end there is little surprise, but I will indulge that sacrifice and friendship is chosen over winning the big prize. The message relayed is that a true winner in life isn’t always judged by who comes first in a contest.

There are several reasons I like this animated flick. It is different from other others of this genre in that the characterizations and gags are funny but never vulgar. In other words, thank goodness, the filmmakers didn’t resort to the disgusting stuff we see so often these days. Another thing, surfing enthusiasts should get a kick out of the action packed scenes on the waves. Scenes from inside the curl of a wave, or under the water after the wipeout are realistically integrated via spectacular CGI effects. It is as if the camera is riding along on another surfboard and taking it all in.

The film also benefits from great voice over work by the entire cast. Shia LeBeouf adds just the right teen spirit to Cody; Jeff Bridges channels his laid back, cool “dude” Big Lebowski character, Woods hams it up a notch, and Deschanel effortly portrays the sweet but strong surfer girl. It’s a tie as to who is more hysterical - Mario Cantone as scout Mikey or Jon Heder as Chicken George, who is so spaced out that he mistakes being boiled in a pot for the natives’ dinner as an hospitable invitation for a relaxing hot tub experience.

Now Surf’s Up may nor be the summer’s biggest blockbuster. But it has all the right entertaining elements that aim to please, minus the stupid jokes, too many silly sight gags, or pop culture references. Even though some of the jokes may go over the head of the kiddies, the film is family friendly with enough laughs for all to enjoy. So my recommendation is to go see it. I would hate for this film to be a wipe out at the box office.