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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."
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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?
- In theaters: June 7, 2007
- On DVD or streaming: October 9, 2007
- Cast: Jeff Bridges, Shia LaBeouf, Zooey Deschanel
- Directors: Ash Brannon, Chris Buck
- Studio: Sony Pictures Animation
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Ocean Creatures, Wild Animals
- Character strengths: Perseverance
- Run time: 89 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: mild language and some rude humor.
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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