There is a common problem that happens in Hollywood and it is well known to almost everyone in the industry: the problem of new ideas. There just aren’t enough of them. A common symptom of this particular disease can be seen almost every big movie season when the big films get their releases. Sometimes directly after, or in some cases slightly before the big name film gets released, another film with incredible similarities will crop up. Most of the time these go direct to DVD, hell there are companies that specialize in making them! But sometimes there are big studios sinking big dollars into trying to get to the punch first.
Most of us remember this most clearly with Deep Impact and Armageddon; two films which started out as one, yet in a similar time there was Volcano with it’s dance partner Dante’s Peak and swimming closely behind Finding Nemo came Shark Tale. Wherever the stink of cash goes imitation will follow. Originality is apparently the hardest thing to learn in making films. Then in 2006 George Miller made a film about penguins, particularly singing and dancing penguins, which captured the hearts of millions of moviegoers. And hot on its Happy heels in 2007 Columbia and Sony released Surf’s Up another CGI animated film all about penguins trying to achieve their dreams and be all that they can be.
Both films featured vocal talents of wunderkind rising star leads and established character actors and both focused on a unique selling point: Happy Feet was about dancing and Surf’s Up was about surfing. But there is where the similarities end. It is extraordinarily unfair to judge Surf’s Up against Happy Feet and it is, I think, more unfortunate than anything that the films were released so closely.
Surf’s Up is a technological wonder and a much more adult and dry-humoured film than it’s cousin/running mate. The Story of small town Antarctic penguin Cody Maverick (thank you Top GunÂ¦) and his attempt at the Big Z surf competition title, is told through a documentary style of film-making. Admittedly this stylistic choice is forgotten at times but it is never at a point that it feels inappropriate. The characters talk to the camera, bump into the sound guys and even shoot nervous glances towards the film crew in times of stress of trouble all the while keeping the action and drama moving along nicely.
Where Surf’s Up really excels though is off-shore. This film has to be one of THE main reasons to try HD. The work that has gone into making the surf look and behave as realistically as possible is simply mind blowing. It starts nicely enough in Antarctica and is mildly impressive, but when we hit the shores of the equatorial paradise it is kicked up a whole other level. This is as much a surfing documentary as it is an animated film and as such it is on the same page as the Endless Summer simply for the passion that is shown for the lifestyle. So complete is the love affair that the film features voices of actual world champion surfers!
It has real heart and an obvious yet not stomach churning moral center. Shia Labeouf’s Cody is surprisingly inoffensive and learns and grows throughout while Jeff Bridges channels The Big Lebowski’s The Dude character into the shape of an over the hill penguin to bizarrely perfect effect. Zooey Deschanel is pleasant as the love interest and Deitrich Bader and James Woods are serviceable as the bad guys. Napoleon Dynamite’s Jon Heder is odd yet amusing as Chicken Joe.
Surf’s up is a film that really deserves a second chance. In the past I’m sure many of us have ignored it on store shelves, it being the poor cousin of Happy Feet. But it is worth the time to check it out and will reward the adult viewer more than perhaps the younger audience. If you have a High-Def TV and a Blu-ray player you owe it to yourself to see this film.
A solid COOL
A visual treat with an awesome surf soundtrack and wicked sense of humour.
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
Both comments and pings are currently closed.