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Capone Likes SURF'S UP, But Doesn't Like Its Penguins?!

Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago with you. Thinking this was going to be yet another lame attempt to cash in the current popularity of penguins, I'll admit to walking into the latest CG animated feature SURF'S UP with seriously low expectations. Imagine my glee when I not only saw how appealing the film was for grown folk but also how much the kids in my audience seemed to be digging the whole affair. Shot in a reality-show format, SURF'S UP introduces us the heretofore unknown world of surfing penguins, including a rising young star named Cody Maverick, voiced by a similarly rising dude named Shia LaBeouf (has anyone had a better year?). The small-for-his-age Cody is selected as part of a contest to surf the big waves at a competition that serves as a memorial for a 10-years-dead surf guru called Z, who just so happens to be Cody's hero and inspiration. The contest is run by shifty surf promoter Reggie (James Woods in full motor-mouth mode) and his flittering assistant Mikey (Mario Cantone). While learning that he doesn't have nearly the skills to take on some of the more experienced surfers, Cody seeks guidance and friends from a host of fellow birds, including Chicken Joe (John Heder) and fellow penguins Lani (Zooey Deschanel; even her voice is adorable) and the hermit-like Geek (Jeff Bridges). There is something about the vocal acting in this film that separates from a lot of other recent animated fare. The conversations seem more casual and off-the-cuff. Not every line of dialog is a set up for a joke or a punchline. Sometimes the characters even talk under their breath. And the slightly shaky, hand-held-camera style of the movie is actually sort of cool. What's maybe the most awe-inspiring thing about SURF'S UP are the backgrounds and water effects. I don't know how they did it, but the animators have made flawless-looking and sometimes violent animated water. Plant life and sand also look unbelievably realistic. I tend to watch for these sorts of things, because more often than not, animators don't get these things exactly right. Here, they are perfect and gorgeous. Directors Ash Brannon (co-director of TOY STORY 2) and Chris Buck (director of Disney's TARZAN) combine to give us something really special and positive without being disgustingly sappy. My only regret about this film is the use of penguins. There's absolutely no reason these characters couldn't have been another cute animal, maybe one that isn't so utterly overused lately. I guess there's something inherently funny about a surfing penguin, but I don't remember laughing once at the site of a penguin on a surfboard. There are plenty of other very funny things on hand to keep me amused; that was not one of them. You know what? The more I think about SURF'S UP, the more I dig it. It's no great achievement in animation (aside from the previously mentioned water, sand and plants), but the story is simple and decidedly free of overblown drama, and the characters are all very easy to care about. With this one, you just need to sit back, turn the brain off, and let this 80-minute nugget of goodness wash over you like the perfect wave.


Readers Talkback
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  • June 8, 2007, 9:47 a.m. CST


    by Aznbuddy

    First? Damn!

  • June 8, 2007, 9:47 a.m. CST

    My first First!

    by Aznbuddy

    And my last...

  • June 8, 2007, 9:50 a.m. CST

    No FIRST FOR U!!!

    by vezner2007

    HAAHAHAHAA! More Penguins for dinner please.

  • June 8, 2007, 9:50 a.m. CST

    But do the penguins have well-timed sex?

    by Franklin T Marmoset

    Man, I've turned all nasty this afternoon. Sorry about that, I just thought it was a funny and terrible phrase.<p>No need to be an ass about it, though.

  • June 8, 2007, 9:52 a.m. CST

    With as cold as it is down there...

    by vezner2007

    yeah, you bet your ass it must be well timed. Something might freeze. o_0

  • June 8, 2007, 10:02 a.m. CST


    by Pound Sand

    Only now we've got Viggo's balls to deal with.

  • June 8, 2007, 10:02 a.m. CST

    7000 animated Myspace penguins

    by Motoko Kusanagi

    lookin' awesome

  • June 8, 2007, 10:17 a.m. CST


    by council estate scumbag

    That's my word from the council estates

  • June 8, 2007, 10:22 a.m. CST

    As w/ Massa's review . . .

    by Nice Marmot

    . . . I will attempt to spark an Animalympics discussion. Anyone else grow up watching that flick?

  • June 8, 2007, 10:32 a.m. CST

    Just read about Zak Snyder is doing....

    by Zompar Usilon

    his follow-up to 300. It's called 7000. Nothing about the story yet, but I heard somthing abbout some crazy looking readhead shouting: "THIS...IS...MYSPACE!!!"

  • June 8, 2007, 10:37 a.m. CST

    The trailer had a Red Hot Chili Peppers song

    by Abominable Snowcone

    called "Get on Top" from their 1999 Californication album. That's cool enough for me. Although, being a kids' movie, I guess they'll have to edit out the lyrics about cunt-zilla and flipping off the police.

  • June 8, 2007, 10:47 a.m. CST

    whay do they keep on making

    by huggerorange

    whay do they keep on making peguin movies??? this is the 4 th or 5 th one to come out in the last 2 years.

  • June 8, 2007, 10:48 a.m. CST

    Animated water, sand , and plants.

    by lost.rules

    Yep. That's what I care about.

  • June 8, 2007, 10:51 a.m. CST

    Do penguins like HD-DVD..?

    by greigy just wanted to say

    Damn sorry only available in ice cold Blu-ray.

  • June 8, 2007, 10:55 a.m. CST

    I'm getting sick of

    by Fenrisulfr

    I'm getting sick of penguins, and sick of CGI movies.

  • June 8, 2007, 10:55 a.m. CST

    Pound Sand

    by PirateEmery

    CGI Penguin Craze = 2005 Escaped CGI Zoo Animal Craze

  • June 8, 2007, 10:58 a.m. CST

    Are Harrys MySpace friends penguins...??

    by greigy just wanted to say

    Just Asking...!! There are 28,000,000,000 of them aren't there..?

  • June 8, 2007, 11 a.m. CST

    Would you have sex with a penguin if it had

    by Borgnine JR

    Zooey's voice? Or if Zooey was trapped in the body of a penguin? I'm still thinking about it.

  • June 8, 2007, 11:10 a.m. CST

    I'll bet the house...

    by robotdevil

    ...some dumb-ass exec decided they should be penguins because of how popular penguins are now, which ironically is going to be the exact thing to sink this film. Everyone I know has the exact same reaction, "Another fucking penguin movie, lame".

  • June 8, 2007, 11:18 a.m. CST

    Shia LaBeouf

    by Kragmose

    Is the one and only reason I will not be seeing this flick.

  • June 8, 2007, 11:27 a.m. CST


    by Ron Mexico

    They should have used koalas.

  • June 8, 2007, 11:49 a.m. CST

    Use your heads guys

    by Steve_Dooku

    This movie was conceived and written years ago, before the flood of penguin movies. Animated flicks like this take a long time to create. <br><br> What is the tally of Penguin movies anyway?<br><br> March of the Penguins<br> The 4 penguins in Madagascar<br> Happy Feet<br><br> Are there more?

  • June 8, 2007, 12:04 p.m. CST

    It's about time

    by Geddlee

    Hollywood made a good surf movie. Those penguins rip.

  • June 8, 2007, 12:08 p.m. CST

    Koalas hahaha!!!

    by ludmir88

    they should stop using animals in their films, they should use humans!!!!!

  • June 8, 2007, 12:31 p.m. CST


    by jesuschrist

    He's right. This WAS in the works BEFORE Happy Feet. They just got out first.

  • June 8, 2007, 12:32 p.m. CST

    simple reason why penguins...

    by I87D

    because when they first started making it four years ago, penguins weren't the next big thing at all. it was cute AND novel. but now -- it'd cost too much to change them now (they'd have to re-storyboard and re-animate the entire thing, since penguins are in every frame)

  • June 8, 2007, 12:36 p.m. CST

    hey dr gonzo

    by I87D

    wasn't Raiders rated R when it first came out? Not sure how that fits with your "made for children 8" theory... unless you're trying to say that R rated movies today are more graphic then they were 20 years ago. THAT would be a good point... except it has noting to do with PG rated Surf's Up.

  • June 8, 2007, 12:56 p.m. CST

    But will it make my child an atheist?!?

    by chrth


  • June 8, 2007, 12:58 p.m. CST

    Animalympics rocked

    by chrth

    The problem was that the judging was so biased. The Scooby Doobies kicked serious ass though.

  • June 8, 2007, 1 p.m. CST

    I want a remake of 300 with all penguins

    by Spandau Belly

    Shot for shot Gus Van Sant style. Just replace all the humans with penguins.

  • June 8, 2007, 1:32 p.m. CST

    Will Smith and Shia Labeouf

    by jhpiii

    I put this on the I AM Legend Talkback also... What I don't understand...Shia is a pretty predictable actor, not bad at all, not jaw dropping dramatic...predictable in his roles...Will smith another predictable actor...not bad...not jaw dropping dramatic, although close in Pursuit of Happiness, but he is good and delivers in his roles........ Why does Shia get a pass on his acting, and everyone praise him as this great comedic actor, and WIll get bashed...and honestly between the two I would cast Will beacuse of his abiltity to carry a lead man role versus Shia. And Will has better natural comedy than forced perdictable comedy from Shia.

  • June 8, 2007, 1:43 p.m. CST


    by THE FAN

    The show is really good. It blows Dreamworks movies out of the water.

  • June 8, 2007, 1:52 p.m. CST

    You guys are not that smart.

    by THE FAN

    Do you know how long it takes to make an animated film? Try 3 to 4 years. I don't think they just made this film after all of the other Penguin movies came out. They had this in production way before the other two.... only two not 4 or 5 other Penguin movies only two other movies came out. It will be your loss if you don't go see it. It's a good show, and it is in the same style as the TV series THE OFFICE or the film THIS IS SPINAL TAP. I'm going to buy it as soon as the DVD comes out.

  • June 8, 2007, 2:03 p.m. CST

    Pop Culture Alert

    by Ray Garraty #47

    chrth, you got the animalympics confused with the Laff-A-Lympics, a cratoon documenting an athletic contest between the Scoobie Doobies, the Yogi Yahooies, and the Really Rottens. Animalympics was an animated movie about a skiing dog, or something. I am ashamed to know this.

  • June 8, 2007, 2:06 p.m. CST

    Raiders wasn't rated "R" either

    by Ray Garraty #47

    ...PG-13 didn't exist yet, so it was PG.

  • June 8, 2007, 2:19 p.m. CST


    by cyberskunk

    I saw Animalympics. It had the olympics, but with.. erm, anyway, yeah, it had various events. With characters such as an otter and killer whale in a swim competition. There was a skiing dog who got lost but found the fabled city of Dog-Ri-La. And some mink as a gymnast, who did her routine to the Baba Yaga's Hut part of Pictures from an Exhibition, or whatever that composition is called.

  • June 8, 2007, 2:32 p.m. CST

    Too Penguiny

    by Nuck81

    Wait is that joke funny anymore?

  • June 8, 2007, 2:33 p.m. CST

    can't wait for ...

    by W3bzpinn3r

    "The March of the Surfing Happy Feet From Madagascar!" Guaranteed to take home every Oscar imaginable, even if it isn't in the category!

  • June 8, 2007, 4:35 p.m. CST

    Last time people turned their brains off

    by Dr Gregory House

    we got The Holocaust.

  • June 8, 2007, 4:41 p.m. CST

    Oh yeah! Animalympics! With Barbara Wawa!

    by chrth

    And the long distance runners who fell in love psychot--er, psychically! That was even cooler!<P> I am the master of all things Lympics.

  • June 8, 2007, 5:48 p.m. CST

    The Chicken from Surf's Up Has Chosen HDDVD. Here's Why

    by LordEnigma

    Seriously, few lines have ever been more funny on this site, then that topic from Knowles. Thanks for sharing Harry. Have fun buying the BLU-RAY player later in the year! Nevertheless, Capone, you best not turn off your brain ever. This causes you problems. Real problems.

  • June 8, 2007, 7:32 p.m. CST

    It's OK. . .

    by Big Dick

    . . .but they raped my childhood!

  • June 8, 2007, 7:49 p.m. CST

    Pandas are next!!!!! did you heard that f**ng penguins?

    by ludmir88

    posted by Jack "KungFu Panda" Black.

  • June 8, 2007, 9:31 p.m. CST

    Oh no, penguins...please! They started making this film

    by Bronx Cheer

    years ago...besides, penguins are cool creatures. What do you want, surfing monkeys?

  • June 8, 2007, 9:34 p.m. CST

    Dr Gonzo

    by Bass Bastardson

    Aside from your apparent homophobia, I think you are also losing a little bit of your memory. Sure there was a time when kids got to see Airplane, ESB, and Raiders but that was also a time when kids were watching crap like The Unidentified Flying Oddball, Heartbeeps, and Megaforce. There have always been crap movies flooding the theaters - you're just more aware of how bad it is as a (supposed) adult.

  • June 9, 2007, 12:16 a.m. CST

    Surfing body lice..

    by nolan bautista

    could be twice as nice!!

  • June 9, 2007, 8:31 a.m. CST

    The Penguin called...

    by theonecalledshoe

    and finds your comments discouraging. Contact him at your most convenient time.

  • June 9, 2007, 10:25 a.m. CST

    The better, more casual voice acting Capone speaks of

    by themikejonas

    ...arises from the fact that the voice actors recorded many of the scenes together, instead of in separate sessions like most animated fare. It seems like such a no-brainer idea, and I don't know why more animated movies don't do that more to get a more natural feel in the dialogue.

  • June 9, 2007, 11:02 a.m. CST

    Do kids really need mockumentaries?

    by Mgmax

    Isn't that just a little inside-baseball too hip for 4-year-olds?

  • June 9, 2007, 12:40 p.m. CST

    "They had this in production way before the other two"

    by half vader

    Nope. Happy feet started preproduction over 5 years ago, not even counting the script.

  • June 11, 2007, 12:49 a.m. CST

    No, RAIDERS wasn't rated "R" ...

    by 7-zark-7

    ... but AIRPLANE! was.

  • June 11, 2007, 8:30 a.m. CST

    No, Airplane was also rated PG.

    by Ray Garraty #47

    ...despite the naked breasts.

  • June 11, 2007, 9:35 a.m. CST

    Pre-production for Surf's Up

    by Steve_Dooku

    was in 2002. FWIW.