Movie Review: Surfs Up

Surf’s Up Tailer

Surf’s Up Summary

In a mockumentary, 17-year old Cody Maverick is a young northern rockhopper penguin who lives in Shiverpool, Antarctica, with his mother Edna and his older brother Glen, and has yearned to be a professional surfer ever since meeting the famous surfer Big Z many years ago, so when a talent scout shorebird named Mike Abromowitz arrives to find entrants for the Big Z Memorial surfing contest on Pen-Gu Island, Cody jumps at the chance. En route to the contest, Cody befriends another entrant, Chicken Joe, a nice, but dim-witted rooster surfer from Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

The entrants arrive at Pen-Gu Island, where Cody meets and immediately falls in love with Lani Aliikai, a female gentoo penguin who is a lifeguard. He also meets the contest’s arrogant champion, Tank “The Shredder” Evans, who has won the Big Z Memorial nine times since it was first held after Z’s supposed death during a previous match ten years ago. Cody sees Tank throwing rocks at Big Z’s memorial and immediately challenges him to a surfing duel. Tank wins the duel while Cody nearly drowns and is stung by a sea urchin named Ivan. Lani rescues him and takes him to her uncle, Geek, to help Cody recover from his injuries. Cody wakes up, but cannot find the souvenir necklace given to him as a child by Big Z. Geek then finds it in his hut.

While returning the necklace, Geek finds Cody sitting on a koa log and offers to help him make a surfboard. They attempt to take the log back to Geek’s house, only to lose control of it and end up on a beach far away from the house. When Cody gets to the beach, he discovers a shack full of old trophies and surfboards, which used to belong to Big Z. After observing Geek walking sadly into the shack, he realizes that Geek is actually Big Z and asks him to teach him how to surf. Z reluctantly agrees, but tells Cody he has to make his own board first. The attempt does not go well, however, as an impatient Cody refuses to listen to Z’s advice and crafts a weak and unstable board that shatters upon hitting the water. Angry, Cody storms off and runs into Lani, who, after convincing him to land-surf through a volcanic caverns, persuades Cody to return. Cody does, and spends the night working patiently on a new board.

Z compliments Cody on his new board, and Cody is eager to start training. Z instead has him perform menial and absurd tasks seemingly unrelated to surfing, and takes pleasure in Cody’s frustration. Finally, when Cody starts having fun by also pulling pranks on Z, the ex-surfer teaches him how to surf the waves. Afterwards, Cody asks Z if he will come watch the contest, but Z refuses, revealing that he faked his death because he realized he couldn’t compete with his then-new rival Tank, and that he had become too focused on winning. Not impressed that Z gave up, Cody throws the necklace Z gave him into the sea, meets up with Joe (who has befriended a tribe of flesh-eating penguins), and gets back to the contest just as it begins.

Tank makes it to the finals, as do Cody and Joe. In the semifinals, Tank battles with Cody, with Tank trying to throw him off his board, but Tank falls off his own board and loses. During the finals, however, Tank appears and tries to knock Joe off his board. Cody intervenes at the last minute, sending himself and Tank into an area of the beach known as the Boneyards, which consists of dangerously sharp rock outcroppings and has killed many surfers who have ventured there. Tank punches Cody off his board before crashing, and is rescued by Lani. Z, who had secretly been watching Cody’s performance, rescues Cody from a gigantic wave and helps him get back to the beach safely.

Z and Cody find out that Joe won by default since Tank and Cody were disqualified. However, Cody accepts the loss, having realized that his true enjoyment lies in the art of surfing itself, not competitions as he had always thought. Z reveals himself to the spectators and invites all of them to surf at his beach, where he then proceeds to join Cody in tube-riding. Cody finishes his interview with the documentary crew, giving a reflection of the past events, and then joins the rest of his friends in the water, finally content.

In a mid-credits scene, Cody’s mother chastises Glen for not pursuing a dream as Cody did, much to the latter’s chagrin.

Surf’s Up Review

Rating: 3 out of 5.

It is an okay children’s animated film.

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