Surf's Up

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Surf's Up Movie Poster Image
Popular with kids
Kids will dive into penguin adventure, dude.
  • PG
  • 2007
  • 89 minutes

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 31 reviews

Kids say

age 6+
Based on 46 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The underlying message is to follow Big Z's motto: "Never give up ... find a way."

Positive Role Models & Representations

Cody's determination gets him the chance of a lifetime.

Violence & Scariness

Slightly disturbing images include a photo of Cody's dad about to be eaten by a shark and footage of the Z's wipeout wave when he supposedly died. Tank punches Cody.

Sexy Stuff

Cody flirts with and hugs Lani. Female penguins follow Tank, who, in turn, has an unusual, almost sexualized relationship with his surfing trophies (he even hugs and kisses them). His mother yells "Are you polishing your trophies again?" and in one scene, a penguin's genitals are "blurred out."


Mild PG words and insults: "crap," "butt," "sucks," "shut up," "go cut yourself," "you're a trash can full of poop," etc. There are also a few fart jokes.


Surfing commentators Kelly (Slater) and Rob (Machado) are real professional surfers.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Surf's Up is an animated comedy that was heavily marketed to kids, and those who liked Happy Feet will be particularly interested in seeing it. Although there's not much violence, there are a few mildly perilous scenes during the surfing competition and in old photos/footage. And (big surprise for an animated story) the main character has a dead parent -- in this case, a father who was eaten by a shark. There's some unfortunate potty talk (which parents might want to manage at home), a harmless flirtation between two penguins, and a surfing champ's bizarre attachment to his trophies, which he refers to as his "girls."

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byAmy Rivers October 27, 2019

Hidden crude "humor"

I find this film inappropriate. Not a kids movie. The beginning was too drawn out and lost my interest early.
What was off putting is the adult jokes they trie... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byShadowofchaos41 February 8, 2012

It was good

There is one scene where Cody is in the shower with the female penguin
Teen, 14 years old Written byOldBob13 April 10, 2010

A superb (and utterly breathtaking) animated movie

When I was going to see Surf's Up for the first time, I didn't have high expectations. After watching the entire 88 minutes, I came out pleasantly sup... Continue reading

What's the story?

A clever homage to surfer flicks and documentary-style comedies, SURF'S UP follows the adventures of misfit penguin Cody (voiced by Shia LaBeouf) as he tries to become a surfing legend. Crediting his tenacious spirit to a childhood encounter with legendary late surfer Big Z, Cody (followed by a camera crew) ends up in Hawaii for a major surfing competition held in Z's honor. Cody eventually meets a hermitic penguin named Geek (Jeff Bridges), who's modeled exactly after Bridges' iconic alter ego The Dude from The Big Lebowski. Obviously, Geek is Big Z -- who never really wiped out after all -- and eventually, Z and the fatherless Cody get on the same wavelength. Jon Heder adds extra comic relief as Chicken Joe, Cody's laconic rooster surfing buddy who's so chill that he doesn't realize a tribe of penguins is trying to stew him, not give him a hot bath. Also adding to the comedy mix are Lani Zooey Deschnael, a beautiful lifeguard who's smitten with Cody, greedy surfing promoter Reggie (James Woods) -- an otter with a Don King hairdo -- and the competition's egomaniacal champ Tank Evans (voiced by comedian Diedrich Bader).

Is it any good?

This is a fresh take on an otherwise overexposed animal. Penguins have been all the cinematic rage since the Academy Award-winning documentary March of the Penguins became a surprise summer blockbuster in 2005. Next came 2006's coming-of-age musical -- and fellow Oscar winner -- Happy Feet. Surf's Up doesn't surpass the award-winning caliber of previous penguin films, but it does feature a cool soundtrack of surfer tunes, impressive oceanic action visuals, and a cast of droll characters.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the current penguin craze. Why do you think there are so many movies and cartoons featuring them, from March of the Penguins to Madagascar? Are newer movies just copying the older ones, or do they all have different things to offer?

  • Families can also discuss sportsmanship and determination. Is it more important to enjoy a sport or be competitive at it? Can you be both without placing winning above all else? What does Big Z teach Cody about idolizing role models too much? Why do we place professional athletes on a pedestal?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love animals

Character Strengths

Find more movies that help kids build character.

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate