Imma Let You Finish, But ‘Surf’s Up’ Is The Most Underrated Animated Film Of All Time

Nothing excites me more than when Netflix does its monthly update of content, and I really think that says more about me, than Netflix itself. So though I was already stoked to be receiving some fresh content, I was ABSOLUTELY stoked to see that the utterly iconic 2007 Sony Pictures Animation film Surf’s Up was there, ripe for the watching.

So I watched it, twice.

I also went through the cupboard to find that, yes, I do still own it on DVD and will probably enjoy watching it on another medium in the next few weeks. That is just how I do things. So needing to share my excitement, I turned to my mates to see if they too had recently enjoyed this masterpiece on Netflix.

But alas, I was one of few who never mind remembering enjoying this visually forward and effortlessly clever CGI, but had even seen it.

No. Not on my watch.

To be fair, Surf’s Up was released during a time when Pixar was of course dominating the box office with hits like Ratatouille and Cars. We were also being dazzled by the likes of some actually bizarre, if not highly concerning, children’s movies from Dreamworks like Shrek The Third and The Bee Movie. There was even a resurgence in children’s musicals that Surf’s Up had to compete with like Enchanted, Alvin And The Chipmunks, and High School Musical.

There was also the fact that Surf’s Up, a movie about penguins doing human like activities, was riding off the back of the smash hit Happy Feet, which was released only a year prior. Maybe there was just only so much penguin-content the noughties could handle between Happy Feet and several Madagascar movies.

But Surf’s Up deserved better.

Created in a mockumentary style, just like The Office (which is crazed considering that this meant animators had to go the extra mile to animate outtakes, accidental boom microphones, and handheld camera movements) Surf’s Up follows a bunch of penguins from all around the world who are entering a surfing competition which is memorialising the greatest surfing penguin to have ever lived, and died, Big Z. It interviews every creature who could possibly be involved in a surfing competition from the participants, to fans, defending champions, experts, the competition’s managers, the families of the competitors, and a bunch of child penguins who aspire to be surfers too, when they grow up.

Me talking about people who refuse to watch Surf’s Up.

They even interview the sea urchin that gets stood on during a wipe out – who comes up with this stuff?

In saying this, the interviews mainly follow an aspiring surfing champion called Cody, a penguin from SHIVERPOOL, heading to the world’s biggest surfing competition on Pen Gu Island (these names, I can’t). He just wants to be like his hero Big Z, and ends up at the competition because of his determination, and not because of his surfing skills. Once there, he meets a surfing chicken named Joe, the current world champion and surfing bully Tank, a female penguin called Lani who lifeguards for the competition, and a mysterious island dwelling local named Geek, who helps him upgrade his surfing skills.

We can see why it was called Shiverpool. Adorable.

Though the plot seems childish and almost a bit cheesy, the characters are given some substance thanks to a voice cast that is oddly specific to the 2000’s. Surf’s Up gives us some comedy gold voice-acting from:

Internet odd-ball Shia LaBeouf who plays Cody

‘The Dude’ himself, Jeff Bridges playing Geek

Then soon to be New Girl Zooey Deschanel as Lani

Jon Heder who basically reprised his role of Napolean Dynamite but in the form of a chicken named Joe

And my personal favourite, actual surfing legends Kelly Slater and Rob Machado as penguin versions of their surfing selves. Amaze.

Not only does Surf’s Up offer this bizarre, but definitely stellar cast, it also sucks you in with a killer soundtrack of surf-rock songs that still slap like Green Day’s Welcome To Paradise and Holiday, Drive by Incubus, What I Like About You by The Romantics, You Get What You Give by New Radicals, and of course Wipe Out by The Queers – a song no surfing movie is complete without.

But what really makes this movie, is it’s offbeat comedy style and witty one liners that derive from the documentary style parody, and the sheer absurdity of why anyone would be documenting animated surfing penguins in the first place.

We are talking suicidal baby penguin who tries to drown himself to get the pretty lifeguards attention.

We are also talking an entire scene of one penguin talking in a deep, husky voice about his trophies like sexual conquests.

These are my ladies. This is Jill. This is my lady, Amy. Little Suzy. Brianna… you know why we call her Brianna, right?” – Tank, The Animated Penguin Children Are Watching

We also got some VERY dark jokes about how both Cody and Chicken Joe didn’t know their fathers, due to them both dying in unfortunate accidents.

Cody’s father, Bob Maverick, who Cody never knew…
Chicken Joe’s father, Chicken Bob, who Joe never knew…

And of course we have a chicken who is an apparent surfing superstar, yet he hails from a lake in Wisconsin that is very much so, waveless.

Good content.

I would like to also take this minute to point out that Surf’s Up also has a sequel called Surf’s Up 2: WaveMania which, and this is truly wild, is co-produced by WWE Studios and features voice acting from professional WWE wrestlers John Cena, The Undertaker, Triple H, Paige, and Vince McMahon as, yup, still surfing penguins. At no point does wrestling come into this movie.

How many executives had to sign off on this?

So in summary; re-watching Surf’s Up has been the highlight of my clearly uneventful week, and I fully recommend you all get on Netflix now and watch the hell out of this classic. Appreciate it, like it deserves to be appreciated!

– Courtie