Surf's Up!

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Surf's Up! Dude.. learning to feel the wave with surfing penguins? Gnarly.

Jun 9, 2007 (Updated Jun 9, 2007)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Excellent

  • Bang For The Buck

Pros:Beautiful to watch, You can't help but love Cody, Feel Good movie

Cons:Some unneccessary inappropriateness for children, predictable plot

The Bottom Line: ... Not just another penguin movie!


My children were bouncing off the walls to see the new Surf's Up! movie, so off we went. Living near the ocean my six year old son loves surfing. And, my two year old daughter is obsessed with penguins ever since Happy Feet. So, surely a movie that combined these 2 things - penguins and surfing - seemed like a winning combination for our family. Regardless, going to the movies with kids is always an adventure of its own (especially on opening weekend). Surprisingly on just the second day of airing in major theatres we landed in an almost empty theatre at a 1 PM showing on a Saturday. Everyone else must have been enjoying the real surf just a few miles away.

Surf's Up!

What's with all the movies about penguins these days? First the dreadfully sad but cinematic March of the Penguins, then the almost equally as sad, heavy-handed Happy Feet, and now we have Surf's Up!. I didn't know much about the plot before we went but I at least hoped that Surf's Up would prove to be more upbeat as the trailers showed the ridiculous sight of Emperor and Rockhopper penguins and a even a chicken (yes...a chicken!) catching some waves. What with all these penguin movies these days your average preschooler can properly identify and name the different types of penguins!

In a nutshell the story of Surf's Up! tells of a small rockhopper penguin named Cody (this is the same kind as the one played by Robin Williams in Happy Feet that had the soda can six pack stuck on his neck) who would rather spend his days surfing than sorting fish or sitting on an egg. Much to his family and community's dismay he is determined to follow his dream and emulate his idol "The Big Z". The Big Z (short for Zeke) is an emperor penguin (like Happy Feet's Mumble) who was a famous surfer back in the day but whose time had come and gone. Cody is given the chance to travel to Hawaii from his home in Shiverpool, Antarctica to compete in a big surfing competition in honor of his fallen idol "The Big Z Memorial Surf Off" which is being held on Pen Gu island. His main competition includes Chicken Joe (his 'friend'), and Emperor Penguin and the current champion Tank (who had de-throned Cody's idol The Big Z). Before the competition can even begin Cody's ego and pride get in the way and he has a run-in with Tank that may get in the way of the big day. A pretty girl lifeguard penguin shuttles him away deep into the jungle where he meets "The Big Geek" a washed up penguin who has quite a bit to teach young Cody.

Will Cody be able to compete in the competition with the help of Lani and The Big Geek? Will he win? Who is The Big Geek, really?

Does Cody get the girl?

What's the deal with the surfing chicken?

And really, what does winning mean?


Surf's Up! is presented in a mockumentary style and is a blend of reality-TV type footage and a sports film. Its funny because with the fake documentary style they purposely include things like a shaky camera & a visible boom mic - so you know you are watching a movie. But then with the way that the animation is done its so visually stunning. I'm admittedly smitten with surfers and big waves - and at times the water and waves seemed real. To me that is a sign of a good animation when something as silly as penguins on surfboards can come alive and many times it does.

The voice actors were fun, but nothing to really write home about and included Shia LaBeouf (Cody), Jeff Bridges (Z/Geek), Jon Heder (Chicken Joe), Zooey Deschanel (Lani), and Diedrich Bader (Tank). Cody definitely came alive for me, and I couldn't help but adore the little guy and be pulling for him - who doesn't love the underdog?

There's also these 3 overly cute, fluffy baby penguins who are interviewed throughout the movie. They are so smooshy that they make me ovulate and want to take them home with me, plus they say really funny stuff. My all time favorite quote from them was also spoiled in the trailer but it cracks me up. One of the little fluffs says "A winner is someone who doesn't knock me off my surfboard; Tank's definitely not a winner." and then another one chimes in with "He's a dirty trash can full of poop.". I know a few people like Tank!.. Don't we all?


The Parent's Perspective
If you are thinking of taking your children to see Surf's Up! there are a few things you should know. First off, its rated as PG - parental guidance. The reasons for this rating include the following: potty humor that is pretty much expected these days in a children's film (references to poop and farting), colorful language including the word Crap(I turned to my husband, did they just say "Crap?") and name-calling including the term Peckerface. Yes, they really did say Peckerface.. Chicken Joe is "fried", "baked" and otherwise not with us for most of the movie. Personally, I found him pretty funny and these jokes were over my children's heads but it still bears mentioning. Other questionable scenes for the moral high ground include a quick shower scene with Cody and Lani (they had to wash glow worm poop off somehow!), and a scene where the Tank lustfully shows off all of his trophies he has won and named women's names which I found to be creepy more than anything. The sports promoter hot shot (I think he was a woodchuck or a beaver) is shown several times putting back a few drinks lounging in a hot-tub, when he stands up they put one of those blurred boxes over where his genitals would be. Since when did animated characters come anatomically correct? All of these questionable moments could have easily been cut out of the film and it still would be in tact, yet possibly less funny for the adult viewer. As a parent, I enjoy (and need) laughs but question the appropriateness of it all.


Kids love Surf's Up!
At just under 90 minutes this one is long enough to tell a story and short enough that it doesn't get boring. Compared to the other penguin movies, Surf's Up doesn't drag on and on and on.. is it over yet? In fact, it may seem to be over almost too quickly. My husband and I both felt that there could have been a bit more "something" to its plot and characters to really bring it home.

As suspected, my kids loved it and would see it again, but we'll wait for it to come out on DVD. In the meantime I'm sure I'll get sucked into buying them some Surf's Up merchandise to keep them happy. McDonalds is including Surf's Up toys in their Happy Meals now which I must say is a welcome change from the farting ogre babies that they were previously including.

Surf's Up!


Recommend this product? Yes


Movie Mood: Good for Kids
Viewing Method: Other
Film Completeness: Looked complete to me.
Worst Part of this Film: Script

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