I had watched this movie a long time back and could watch it again on HBO yesterday. I just loved this Penguin animated movie although Penguins feature in March of the Penguins, Madagascar, and Happy Feet. The direction is superb and voice casting and music is excellent. I would recommend watching this movie for motivation (not inspiration-as it comes from within). Here goes the review-
A documentary crew (of SPEN channel, SPEN is a parody of ESPN. It stands for “Sports Penguin Entertainment Network”. It is also a play on the scientific family name for penguins, Spheniscidae) follows the events of Cody Maverick (voiced by Shia LaBeouf) a small rock hopper penguin residing in Shiverpool, Antarctica (a pun on Liverpool, England). After a childhood visit from surf legend Zeke “Big Z” Topanga, Cody aspires to emulate the renowned legend by becoming a famous and respected surfer.
Eventually, talent scout Mikey Abromowitz arrives in Shiverpool scouting for surfers to compete in the Big Z Memorial Surf Contest. Cody joins the group of surfers, once he’s proven himself to Mikey, and quickly befriends Chicken Joe, an easy-going surfer from Wisconsin. Soon after arriving at Pen Gu Island (along with other prominent surfers Renato Mendes (Brazil), Rory Nubbins (Australia), and Tatsuhi Kobayashi (Japan)), Cody crosses paths with the local lifeguard named Lani Aliikai as she rescues the penguin child, Arnold, from “drowning.” Shortly thereafter, Cody has an altercation with the egotistical Tank “The Shredder” Evans, a large muscular penguin and nine time winner of the Big Z Competition, when he witnesses Tank hurling stones at Big Z’s memorial shrine. The disturbance catches the attention of promoter Reggie Belefonte, all too eager to allow Cody to challenge Tank to a surf-off on the spot. Unfortunately Cody’s inexperience with the challenges the competition has to offer leads to a terrible wipeout, and he is injured when he steps on a fire urchin. Lani takes Cody to the jungle home of a hermit called the Geek (voiced by Jeff Bridges) in order to get help for his injuries and to recuperate.
Upon waking up, Cody is quickly shooed out of Geek’s house. On the escort back, Cody realizes that he has lost his Big Z necklace. He shows Cody the route back to the beach, and leaves the young penguin be. A short time having passed, Geek has found Cody’s necklace in his hut and quickly returns to the path fork, finding Cody still sitting on the log, and returns the Big Z necklace. Geek then notices the log’s type, Koa (of which all the best surfboards are made), and decides to make Cody a surfboard.
While carrying the log back to Geek’s house, the two lose control of it and the log starts rolling down a cliff. The two run after it, and the young surfer notices what the cliff looks over: a beautiful and pristine beach. Unable to contain his curiosity, Cody treks down the steep cliff, inadvertently taking Geek with him. On the beach, Cody explores a toppled tree and soon realizes it houses several old surfboards, those of Big Z’s. Geek is seen investigating a dilapidated shack littered with messages of grief from Big Z’s fans, and from his reaction, Cody realizes that the Geek is Big Z.
Almost instantly, Cody’s excitement that his lifetime hero still lives is unleashed in a torrent of questions and theories as to what happened, much to the chagrin of Z, who quickly takes to hiding within his old home. Eventually Cody lures Z from the hut, having pulled Z’s old boards from their resting spot and attempting to surf with them out in the crystal blue ocean. Cody takes a few more wipeouts as he attempts to get Z in the water, but slowly manages to work tips from Big Z. Cody is told that he won’t be doing any surfing until he has made a board of his own.
Cody, eager to make his own board, is unwilling to listen to Z’s advice on making a surfboard. Z backs off, and allows Cody to pry his way through the wood, creating a “work in progress” gouged plank that quickly snaps once in the water. Cody becomes irritated and leaves the beach, leaving Z behind, Z all the time calling after Cody that he will come back. Cody runs into Lani, who reveals that she knew of Geek’s true persona, and that he was her uncle. Lani then takes Cody to a series of tubes in the island and after a thrilling race through the tubes and a “winning” landing in glow worm droppings, a shower, and a talk, Lani convinces Cody to return to Z. Cody complies, realizing his folly, and returns to Z’s beach, beginning work on a new surfboard under the bright moonlight.
In the morning, Z awakens Cody to start his training, but on land. Cody, initially irritated by the low-progress training, soon exclaims that he is “having fun.” Z then gives Cody the OK to go into the water, and joins him in the surfing. Lani soon arrives on the beach and joins the duo as they surf the rest of the day away.
In the evening, Cody asks Big Z to come and watch him surf in the Big Z Memorial Surf competition. Z is highly reluctant, becoming irritated with the questioning, but ashamedly reveals the truth behind his disappearance. Cody is in disbelief that his hero had given up. Tossing his necklace into the dark waves, Cody storms off, intending to win the contest alone. Cody continues through the forest and is caught in a trap set by the natives of Pen Gu Island. Chicken Joe appears, having been looking for Cody ever since his disappearance, and since had befriended and apparently traveling with the Pen Gu-ins, retrieves Cody just as the horn blows for the start of the Surf Off.
Taking the audience by surprise, the three finalists turn out to be Cody, Joe, and Tank. Tank attempts to take out Cody only to slip off his board. Tank is knocked out cold after colliding with some of the rocks, Lani coming to his rescue. Meanwhile, Cody is saved by Z, and together they swim back ashore. Z then reveals his presence to the crowd, and takes them to his beach to surf. Cody finishes talking with the documentary crew at this point and joins his friends in the water. The film ends with Z, Cody, Lani, and many others surfing the waves as the sun sets.
Cody’s brother Glen is seen mumbling and throwing the documentary crew’s equipment out of the window, ending the scene with “Go back to Hollywood!”
Surf’s Up has received generally positive reviews from critics, and the film is ‘Certified Fresh’ by rottentomatoes.com, with a 78% approval rating among reviews. Some noted that in spite of it coming so soon after many movies featuring penguins (March of the Penguins, Madagascar, and Happy Feet), it was able to stand out on its own.