Saturday 12 April 2008

Surf's Up (2007)

Having kids in the house gives me a great opportunity to watch some of the kids movies I've picked up on DVD. Surf's Up is an animated film released by Sony (read: not Disney and not Pixar) and made by Ash Brannon, who co-directed Toy Story 2 and Chris Buck who directed Pocahontas. It focuses on the annual Penguin World Surfing Championships at Pen Gu Island, the place where the legend of the sport, Big Z, died. Now we're on the tenth year of the contest for the Big Z Memorial trophy and Tank Evans, an up and comer when Big Z died is the new legend, with the last nine titles to his name.

In comes Cody Maverick, a young surfer eager to get out of Shiverpool, Antarctica, and he finds himself right in the heart of the action. Not only does he get in the face of Tank Evans and embarrass himself royally, he discovers that the local slacker witch doctor is really Big Z, and gets himself set up for a training regime a la the Karate Kid. In fact that's what this story really is, it's an animated penguin version of The Karate Kid, except with an added message that comes from the realisation that as much as this is a film full of animated penguins, it's really not a kids film and that really surprised me.

It's told like a documentary for a start, one that veers definitely into adult territory, and the message is effectively that what's cool isn't necessarily what everyone else thinks is cool. It's a slacker manifesto. Why care about winning when you can just ride the tube and come out the other side? Living is lying on your board with a margarita and a sunset. The entire character of Chicken Joe is genius and he sums it all up. As portrayed by Jon Heder, better known as Napoleon Dynamite, he's someone that kids can laugh at but means more and more the more you think about him. He's effectively a stoner who hasn't a clue where he is and that's why he's so good on the waves. Think about it too much and you'll lose it. The legend is Big Z and he's Jeff Daniels not far off the Big Lebowski. Not really kids stuff but they may enjoy anyway.

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