(Release Date: June 08, 2007)
But, hey, Cars feels one trunk of a lot like a smooth hewn remake of Doc Hollywood (which was released fourteen years, one month and three weeks before Cars, not that anyone asked. Yeah, I did the math. I have that kind of mind. This... is why my boss hates me.) So, originality isn't quite what it once was, was it? I... I mean "IS it?".
But again, Surf's Up does look great, and it's pretty gosh darned entertaining to boot. This brings us to one area where this Sony Pictures Animation release does show its more original side. Instead of a standard feel-good fourth-wall-secure animated flick, directors Chris Buck and Ash Brannon offer up a Mockumentary, with a heck of a lot of stops pulled to give that documentary feel without resorting to "nausea-vision" (did you watch this one, Dick City?). The look of the "camera work" (virtual, though it may be) could fool the ol' peepers into thinking this was a movie shot with hand-held cameras if the subjects weren't talking penguins, chickens and varied rodents and fowl. "Archival" footage is given a grainy look with a faithful facsimile of 1960s-era film stock. Even the "spliced-in", licensed footage (such as news coverage or X-Games action shots) is given a slicker, video-oriented look.
The problem is this conceit is abandoned during some key moments in the film, leading to not only a thematic inconsistency, but an air of illogic when private moments and impossible angles are covered as if they were filmed by a documentary film crew. Yeah, yeah, yeah, it's a kids movie, but I'm not a kid's critic, gosh darn it! Hully Gee.
Any silly way, the Documentary Film Crew (voiced by directors Chris Buck and Ash Brannon themselves) follows aspiring surfer (and proficient fish gutter) Cody Maverick (voiced by Shia The Cow) as he tries out for the ultimate in tropical surfing championships for Birds. This isn't only to get the shell out of rural Antarctica, but also to follow in the footsteps of his now idle Idol, the legendary Surfing Champ "Big Z".
Before too much time has passed (so that the movie exceeds a four minute run time) Codeine Maverick leaves behind his loving ma Edna (Dana Belben) and obnoxious brother Glen (Brian Posehn) and follows nervous recruiter Mikey Abromowitz (Mario Cantone) and stoner surf-dude Chicken Joe (Jon Heder) to the tropics for the top of the heap of Board Shorts Sports. Sadly, once he gets there, he's not greeted by "Big Z", he's greeted by the "pecker face" who replaced "Big Z" in the good graces of Don King-like promoter Reggie Belafonte (James Woods): one Tank Evans (Diedrich Bader... he's BATMAN!).
You've seen enough sports movies with enough helpings of the perennial "SPORTS TRAINING MONTAGE" to know what happens. Luckily Cody (note: NOT "Bodhi") befriends a hot (for a Penguin) lifeguard named Lani (Zooey Deschanel) and her part-Yoda, part-Norm-from-Cheers uncle Geek (Jeff Bridges).
It's funny, yes, but predictable and it relies an awful lot on "What'd he say?" shock value and scatological humor to keep the LCD crowd laughing like mad.
But in many cases, Surf's Up can be pretty clever, from subtle sight gags to comical in-jokes and obscure references, one has to wonder which of the four credited writers (Lisa Addario, Christian Darren, Don Rhymer and Joe Syracuse) went "high minded" behind the backs of the other three. Fans of the sport might appreciate the presence of the real pros and announcers of the Wave-Riding game (again, like Cars to NASCAR) Kelly Slater, Rob Machado and Sal Masekela. On the subject of cameos, the experienced ear might recognize Brian Benben, Jane Krakowski and Michael McKean in the cast.
And... unlike that other "Surfer" movie this summer, it knows when to take itself seriously and when to just be goofy. It's hard not to like Surf's Up, at least in a popcorn and candy kind of way, but it's also hard to advocate more than Three Stars out of Five, tubular Quiksilver or no tubular Quiksilver. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go buy Blue Crush on DVD. Sure it's not the best surfer movie out there, but it does have quite a lot that Surf's Up lacked. QUITE a lot!
See you in the next wet, splashing reel.
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