SURF'S UP DVD REVIEW
|Published: 21st November 2007 21:34|
There's been a bit of a glut of penguin movies of late. Be it the martial arts ones of Madagascar, the real-life ones of the Oscar-winning documentary March of the Penguins, the dubbed real-life ones of the dire mockumentary Farce of the Penguins, or the singing and dancing ones of the more recent Happy Feet, Hollywood seems to have fallen in love with these Antarctic fowl with a strange passion during the last few years.
Of course, it's not just been penguins. The last decade or so has seen more talking animal movies than you can shake a stick at. It seems like every other children's film released by Hollywood since the mid-1990s has been a computer-animated tale of anthropomorphic beasties going off on some adventure or another - be it in cute sidekick mode as in the Eddie Murphy-voiced Mushu in Mulan and Donkey in Shrek, or as the main leads, from the Babe films through to Finding Nemo. Such movies are certainly nothing new - talking animals were already popular way back in 1928, when Mickey Mouse made his first sound cartoon the year after the talkies were invented - but there do seem to have been a lot of them of late.
Thankfully, however, the makers of Surf's Up seem to be more than aware of the lack of originality of the talking animals - and especially talking penguins - concept. As such, rather than go for the usual straight storytelling route which, in children's films, almost always seems to involve either a journey of some kind or a coming of age story, or both, they've opted to try something a bit different.
So while this may be the umpteenth talking animals computer-animated movie of the last few months, this is certainly the first one to be filmed as if it were a documentary. Both The Incredibles and Shrek have featured animated ‘interviews' with their main characters on the DVD releases, and several computer-animated movies over the last few years have included fully-animated ‘blooper' reels over the end credits, making out that the characters are in fact real creatures, merely acting for the movie. Surf's Up, however, takes this to its logical conclusion - while the movie may revolve around a young penguin's desire to become a surfing champion, it's told as though he were being followed by a documentary crew, which makes for all sorts of extra potential for gags.
The end result is surprisingly fun - largely thanks to the presence of the Jeff Daniels-voiced former surfing champion, wonderfully reminiscent of his already almost legendary performance as The Dude in the Coen brothers' modern classic The Big Lebowski. There's also a good lead turn from the up-and-coming youngster Shia LaBeouf, recently seen in Transformers, and a typically silly vocal performance from Napoleon Dynamite's Jon Heder as Chicken Joe, who has somehow got mixed up with an entirely different species. There may not be a huge amount to keep parents entertained, but with the mockumentary conceit combining with the decent voice talent on offer, the kids will certainly be entertained for a bit now that they've finished reading the latest Harry Potter. You can't say fairer than that.