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Movie Review

Surf’s Up

MPAA Rating: PG for mild language and some rude humor

Reviewed by: Jennifer Smith

Better than Average
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Family, Kids
Animation, Action, Comedy, Sports, Family
1 hr. 25 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
June 8, 2007 (wide)
Copyright, Sony Pictures International
Copyright, Sony Pictures International
Copyright, Sony Pictures International
Copyright, Sony Pictures International
Copyright, Sony Pictures International
Copyright, Sony Pictures International
Copyright, Sony Pictures International
Copyright, Sony Pictures International
Copyright, Sony Pictures International
Copyright, Sony Pictures International
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Sony Pictures International

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Adventures in the rainforest! Learn about the Creator of the universe by exploring His marvelous creation. Fun for the whole family with games, activities, stories, answers to children’s questions, color pages, and more! One of the Web’s first and most popular Christian Web sites for children. Nonprofit, evangelical, nondenominational.
Featuring: Jeff Bridges, Shia LaBeouf, Zooey Deschanel, James Woods, Jane Krakowski
Director: Ash Brannon, Chris Buck
Producer: Christopher Jenkins, Lydia Bottegoni
Distributor: Sony Pictures International

“A Major Ocean Picture”

Here’s what the distributor says about their film: “Based on the groundbreaking revelation that surfing was actually invented by penguins. In the film, a documentary crew will take audiences behind the scenes and onto the waves during the most competitive, heartbreaking and dangerous display of surfing known to man, the Penguin World Surfing Championship.”

Penguin Cody Maverick, 17, of Antarctica, loves to surf, unlike most others in his fish-sorting hometown of Shiverpool. Inspired by a great legendary surfer, Big Z “Zeke” Topanga who visited his hometown when he was a small child, Cody dreams of pursuing the next big wave, though he keeps his feet on the ground working at the fish-sorting business to try to please his mother. He is somewhat overshadowed by his large and selfish older brother, and misses the presence of his father who was eaten by a killer whale when he was a young penguin.

When a surf scouting bird from warmer places comes looking for potential surfers to participate in a surfing contest, Cody is eager to go. His persistence and boldness earns him a place on the whale-ride back to the islands. Along the way, Cody befriends a chicken named Joe with whom he shares a love of surfing, and is greeted by a greedy, opportunistic promoter, Reggie, who immediately gives him an opportunity to surf against the reigning champion. When Cody wipes out against Tank, he is rescued by Lani, a female lifeguard who takes him to her uncle for help. Cody finds a father figure in this older penguin who supports him on his quest to build a board and become a better surfer. Ultimately, the older penguin, Geek, helps Cody understand that friends are more important than winning trophies, and Cody helps Geek to regain his joy and excitement about life and friendship.

This delightful animated film is “shot” in the form of a “mockumentary” in which Cody is being interviewed as the main subject on his journey to the surfing finals. That only adds to the enjoyment of what is also a fun and heartwarming film that many kids, as well as adults, will enjoy. Lighthearted surf-style music and cute interviews with penguin children also add to the fun. My favorite part of the film is the developing relationship between the main character, Cody, and his mentor, Geek, which is endearing and a positive bond for both the characters.

There was no gross profanity or use of the Lord’s Name in vain in this film.

A few mild bathroom-related jokes are present, as well one use of the word, “crap.” Cody calls Tank, the selfish, uncaring champion penguin, a “peckerface.” To help a sea urchin puncture wound, one character urinates on another, though nothing is seen, only heard. Some of the children refer to Tank as “a dirty trashcan full of poop,” while others state that his “mom pooped him out.” Some mild innuendo occurs when Cody and Lani stand under a waterfall and Cody rather benignly comments that they are in the shower together. The surf champion, Tank, is also very enamored with his trophies, whom he treats as “ladies,” referring to one as his “dirty girl.” This behavior is odd, but I believe this innuendo would pass over most children’s heads. Joe, a chicken from Michigan, is a very relaxed surfer who joins in the pre-contest festivities by having a heart painted on his hindquarters and by donning a grass skirt and coconut top. At one point in Joe’s search for Cody, he states, “I can feel it in my nuggets.”

I will add that for an animated film with a PG-rating, I believe the content to be milder than average and less embarrassing than “Happy Feet” or “Shrek.” Still, if your children are very young or impressionable, be advised, and prepare to speak with them, or to choose another film, if you feel that is warranted.

The family and relational themes in this film are excellent. Although Cody is not his mother’s favorite son and is criticized by those around him for his love of surfing, he maintains a positive attitude. The friends he makes on the islands are immediately loyal and helpful to Cody, and Cody learns to value the gift of friendship above the status of winning a competitive goal. There is a bit of the “enjoy life” philosophy present, which is to be expected, but it is not as prevalent as the emphasis to treat others with kindness and respect. Because Geek takes an interest in Cody, Cody learns to appreciate self-sacrifice and ultimately sacrifices his goal to help a friend. This is not unlike our Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave His life to save us and humbled himself to be our Help.

Violence: None / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: Mild

Viewer Comments
Comments below:
Positive—If you are expecting another “Happy Feet,” think again. “Surf’s Up” has more in common with Rob Reiner’s “This Is Spinal Tap” and any of the Christopher Guest mockumentaries than “March of the Penguins.”

This movie had more to offer than I expected. Although a bit of a light-weight film, it has brilliant wit, beautiful animation, and a simple message that although most people already know, many of them forget. The voice talents were also very good and the interactions between the characters seemed very natural. (Think Nick Park’s “Creature Comforts,” only for Americans). The message of this movie was a basic but important one: competition isn’t the most important thing. If you love something enough to perfect it, you’ve already won.

When you make it all about who wins and who loses you can forget that what you’re doing used to be fun. This message resounds strongly through three of the main characters in both their attitudes and their actions. It was a pretty fun flick.
My Ratings: Good / 4½
—Jonathan, age 20
Positive—One of the best animated films in a long time. Both my 2-year old son and myself were intrigued the whole time. Great story, animation, and a totally fresh outlook. My boy was completely bored during “Happy Feet,” but was completely entertained by “Surf’s Up.”
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4½
—EW, age 34
Positive—I think that this is the best kids movie I have ever seen!!! I usually don’t like animated films but this one is so entertaining I loved it. It was an awseome story; my whole family loved it, a lot. I recommend it for any ages… it isn’t one to be missed.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Sydney, age 15
Positive—This was an amazing!

I loved it it was very cute and was perfectly clean… As far as I remember You would thinkI’m to old for it but tiwas Amazing!!!…
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
Neutral—I went to see this movie with my husband and two girls ages 10 and 6. I saw MOST of the movie. The parts I missed were on trips to the restroom with my daughter (about 3). Anyway, I felt this movie was not one of the best I’ve seen. It had the feel of a documentary (interviews characters and such) which was somewhat aggravating. I felt the movie had a hard time “getting started.” The flow was not smooth and I had a hard time figuring out the purpose of the movie. The characters were likeable, but I agree with one of the other reviewers that the language was less than stellar and could have been left out. The scene with Tank and his trophies bordered on PG-13 as far as content. His remarks were completely inappropriate for this movie aimed at children. Usually when I see kids’ movies these days, I wind up buying them because they are so good. This movie is not one that I will purchase when it comes out on DVD.

SPOILER: The part of the movie I enjoyed most was at the end when Cody triumphed in the Surf-Off even though he didn’t win. Originally, his entire focus was winning. But with the help of “Z” he began to realize that’s not necessarily what it’s all about. He helped the chicken win instead.

Overall, I’d say don’t waste your time or money.
My Ratings: Average / 4
—Lee, age 37
Negative—I was very disappointed in this film. There were several phrases of “oh crap,” “shut-up,” the young penguins calling Tank a “dirty trash can full of poop,” “this place sucks,” “pecker face,” “Lazy butt,” “Blubber ball,” “Big zero,” “loser,” “jerk.” When they first got to the beach the cameras zoomed in on two female penguins with heart tattoos on their backsides. Their were scenes of excessive drinking, innuendo about Chicken Joe smoking pot.

The part that made us walk out was when Tank was showing off his trophies for the camera during an interview, he had a woman’s name for each of them and called them his ladies. First there was an innuendo about it being a secret why one of them was named a certain name,then Tank laid down in a suggestive pose (with soft music in the background) and said that this was “my dirty girl” In my mind it was over the top for a child’s movie. We walked out after that point. There was a lot more that I found to be offensive not to mention that there was no redeeming morality to the whole movie. Do not waste your money or your time.
My Ratings: Very Offensive / 4
—Megan Oestriech, age 37
Negative—My daughter (almost 10) and I always enjoy a good animated film. She thought this was cute, however, I felt the language and innuendos that went over her head to be offensive. As mentioned in previous reviews, there is language unsuitable for children and gestures that may need to be explained. My suggestion is don’t waste your time or money on this one. It’s just not worth it!!!
My Ratings: Offensive / 2
—MJG, age 43
Negative—Well, in a nutshell, my family (my husband and I and our 6 children ages 12 and under) felt compelled to walk out during a few scenes—we finally did when one of the penguins went on and on about how he liked holding his “girls” (he made touching his “trophies” sound like something straight out of a porn movie). I wish we had walked out earlier. I actually can’t believe that we sat through the older male penguin urinating on the young adult male penguin—while the young adult female penguin was watching him urinate!! This wasn’t a quick scene either. The older male penguin was really “into” his urinating on the younger one. I am glad that we missed the “shower” scene though. If there weren’t so many twisted porn-like innuendos, we may have stayed. I’m not ready for my young sons to have thoughts of showering with a girl, getting urinated on by an adult male, or thoughts of inanimate objects as dirty girls. What a child sees influences what they think about. All of this is planted straight into their subconscious. “As a man thinketh in his heart so is he.”br /> My Ratings: Extremely Offensive / 3½
—Alyssa McDowell, age 38
Comments from young people
Positive—I loved this movie. I thought it was better than “Happy Feet” because you can relate to the characters better. You think of Cody as a person. They could have made him as any animal, and you would think of him as a person because he is so real. The story was really good and funny, and I can’t wait for it to come out on DVD!
My Ratings: Excellent! / 5
—Ellen, age 13
Positive—“Surfs Up” is a good movie for the whole family. My siblings (ages 8 and 13) also saw it, both were entertained and my brother wants to see it again! I had high hopes for this movie, as the previews made it look so funny, the animation looked awesome, and the story seemed okay. Now that I’ve seen “Surfs Up,” does it meet those expectations? Yes and no.

The movie was very funny, the animation was the best I have seen for a penguin movie so far, but the story, while not shallow, didn’t have that much depth either (pun intended)—It had a message-about friendship that was endearing, but the story could have been stronger. “Surfs Up” follows a sort-of “documentary” style—a unique style for a animated family film. Because of the documentary style, the first 1/4 of the movie kinda drags, but by the time they get to the surf scenes, things really pick-up. It becomes a fast-paced, cute family movie, appropriate for the kids.

WARNING: The characters in this movie DO say “crap” and “poop” several times, but aside from that—A GREAT MOVIE! So if you have an opportunity to see this film some lazy, summer afternoon, do so. This is not a movie to buy but definitely one to watch.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 5
—Emily, age 15¾
Positive—I went to this movie expecting it to be good, but when I got out of the theatre it was my favorite movie. It did say “poop” and “crap,” but who cares about that. I think it is a great movie for anyone. I would definitely see it again.
My Ratings: Good / 5
—Jacob, age 12
Movie Critics
…one awesome ride …fantastic animated film that mixes Stacy Peralta’s surfing documentary ‘Riding Giants’ and Christopher Guest-style mockumentary to fabulous effect. The movie’s animation is dazzling…
—Glenn Whipp, L.A. Daily News
…an animated comedy that has been made for young kids, but will primarily appeal to their parents. …It’s a clever movie, but only if you’re old enough to be in on the joke.
—Ethan Alter, Film Journal International
…a fairly enjoyable ride… shorter than ‘Happy Feet,’ fresher than ‘Shrek the Third’ (and infused with surfing safari music) but still not the perfect animated summer comedy…
—Barbara Vancheri, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
…“Surf’s Up” is a charmer… the mockumentary element is a welcome surprise…
—Nancy Churnin, The Dallas Morning News
…It’s hard to mess up a cartoon movie about surfing penguins, but Surf’s Up never comes close to hanging 10. …
—Bill Muller, The Arizona Republic