A reasonable improvement on the heavy-handed environmentalism of last year’s hit Happy Feet, Ash Brannon and Chris Buck’s animation is a colourful parody of surfer movies and Stacy Peralta’s 2004 documentary Riding Giants in particular.
The decision to use lots of pseudo documentary realism certainly adds initial pep to the tale of Cody (Shia LaBeouf), a talented but headstrong penguin whose attempts to win the Pen Gu island surfing competition are aided by reclusive champion Big Z (voiced in Big Lebowski super-stoner mode by Jeff Bridges).
Too much self-referential cleverness in the presentation and not enough heart means that the film’s narrative struggles to find a matching style for the penguin’s motivational dramas. On the plus side Surf’s Up swerves Happy Feet’s corporate messages about global warming in favour of some agreeable slapstick and a cheerful playout using The New Radicals’ ‘You Get What You Give’. James Woods also contributes a funny turn as a fast-talking entrepreneurial otter, complete with a Don E King-style hairstyle, but that’s hardly enough recommendation to make seeing another CGI penguin movie a palatable prospect. (Eddie Harrison)
General release from Fri 10 Aug.