Surf’s Up is Sony Pictures Animation’s second and latest film, and is directed by Toy Story 2 co-director Ash Brannon and Chicken Little‘s Chris Buck. Although it was considered a box office failure, Surf’s Up has since been applauded by critics and fans alike. I have to say, normally I’m a sucker for CGI films but lately there has been a flood of them on the market, and frankly they’re starting to decline in quality. But Surf’s Up does something different, it’s actually a CGI mockumentary on surfing documentaries, and with quite a list of voice actors. The list includes Jeff Bridges, Zooey Deschanel, Jon Heder, Shia LaBeouf, James Woods, Diedrich Bader, and more. So does this film break free from the recent rut the animated film genre seems to have found itself in?
A crew of cameras follows Cody Maverick (Shia LaBeouf, Transformers) around Shiverpool, Antarctica documenting him as he hopes to become the next renowned surfing penguin, after his idol “Big Z” (Jeff Bridges, The Big Lebowski). Eventually a talent scout makes his way to Shiverpool where he recruits Cody to join his team. Here Cody befriends Chicken Joe (Jon Heder, School For Scoundrels) a mellow surfer, and becomes hostile with the buff and jerkish Tank Evans (Diedrich Bader, Napoleon Dynamite). Along the way he also meets a kind and caring lifeguard Lani (Zooey Deschanel, Live Free or Die) whom he instantly falls in love with. After a while Cody’s arrogance gets himself injured while having a surf off with Tank, and he ends up being nursed back to health by a hermit named The Geek. Eventually Cody finds out that The Geek is actually “Big Z” and with his help Cody hopes to win the upcoming Big Z competition.
Although Surf’s Up was a bit dull at times, and even childish, it did have its moments and ending up being a pretty decent watch. There’s no way it lives up to some of the heavyweights in CGI, but as a second effort from Sony Pictures Animation I thought it to be rather unique. One thing this movie really had going for it was the great ensemble of voice actors, and although I could give or take Shia LaBeouf’s voice the rest were great to hear throughout. But what I really liked about this movie was the scenery and the great visuals, a great example of how far computer technology has come.
Whether you’re looking for a fun movie to check out on a dull night, or a movie that’s fun for the whole family, Surf’s Up will likely please your appetite. Some of the jokes are a bit tired, but if you can put yourself in a fun mindset you will be sure to get some enjoyment from this film.
Presented in 1.85:1 Widescreen, Surf’s Up provides an excellent looking visual presentation, one that Sony should be proud of. One thing I have always loved about these movies is the amazing use of color and detail, Surf’s Up is no different. The amazing set pieces are fully rich of color and boy do they look good. Blacks are crisp and the huge palette of colors blend great with each other, with no noticeable binding issues. The image is sharp and detail plentiful, as I could easily sport individual hairs on the penguins.
Like every CGI animated movie, the print is in perfect condition, with no speckling or grain to be found from beginning to end. Unless you have a Blu-ray player this is the best the film will look, and believe me that is not a bad thing.
Presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital, this audio track does a great job presenting the films material. Dialogue sounds great, with help from some impressive all around voice acting. With music contributions from Pearl Jam and Incubus the soundtrack sound good and blended well with the dialogue track. The waves swooshing sounds great, with an appropriate use of rear channel support to tie the whole scene together. Bass is present and effectively used throughout a good portion of the film, especially during a surf session. For an animated movie Surf’s Up audio track is fairly impressive, fans will be pleased.
Sony has included a massive set of special features for Surf’s Up. While adults will find the making of features interesting I’m sure the younglings will enjoy the games or animated shorts the best.
- Audio Commentary – Commentary with Directors Ash Brannon and Chris Buck.
- The Chubbchubbs & The Chubbchubbs Save Christmas – Two animated shorts featuring the cute little alien Chubbchubbs. The original Chubbchubbs short once an Academy Award for Best Animated Short, I can see why. These two animated shorts are easily the best features on the disc and should be seen by anyone who enjoyed the film.
- All Together Now: Surf Up Voice Sessions – An in depth look at the voice actors acting sessions. This is an interesting feature as it is always neat to see that actor/actress behind the voice.
- Deleted Scenes – 3 deleted each with optional commentary. Some of the scenes were actually funny, but didn’t necessary advance the plot in any way.
- Arnold ‘s Zurfinary – Arnold gives us a breakdown on surfing slang along side various clips.
- Interactive Games – We are given a handful of games worth checking out for younger viewers. The game in which you make your own surfboard will probably be among the favorites.
- Featurettes – A set of three feauturettes that covers a vast amount of information, from storyboards to the final animation, its all here. Besides the annoying Mario Cantone hosting one part of the features this is a great and informative package.
- “Loose Myself” Music video By Lauryn Hill
- Photo Gallery
The movie itself wasn’t half bad, there were a few clever jokes along the way but it still didn’t impress me like Toy Story or The Incredibles. Although this film was aimed for kids, adults can enjoy it as well as there are a few jokes geared that way. I would give this one a rent before buying it, but if you already know and love it then you will be pleased to hear that the audio and video transfers were both quite exceptional. Along with a boat load of special features, Surf’s Up ends up being a great buy for fans of the film, and a good rental for those of you who haven’t yet seen it.