If you, like me, thought a movie about singing, dancing penguins was a wacky idea, then you ain’t seen nothing yet. Surf’s Up is a movie about, yes, surfing penguins, and in concept alone it scores big points. I mean, have you seen the trailer? It rocks. So you pretty much know going in that Surf’s Up is not your average animated flick. For one thing, it’s “shot” like a documentary, and features interviews with the cast, grainy “archival” footage, and other hallmarks of the genre. And that all is done so well that you forget there was a team of animators who had to create it all from scratch. And then there are the colors and the surfing “photography,” both of which are really fun and cool and make you want to walk out of the theater, put on a wet suit, hop on a board, and ride a wave. (I’ve done it. It’s cool. Trust me.) So yeah, Surf’s Up is a totally fun movie.
But let’s not kid ourselves, and that is a pun, folks. Surf’s Up is also a very, very kid-friendly movie. The crowd I saw it with was about 50% kids (or at least it felt and sounded that way), and they loved it. They were laughing at the cute baby penguins, and the physical humor, and the silly Chicken Joe character. Which is not a bad thing, of course. It’s just that I wouldn’t say the film was as sophisticated as, say, Ratatouille looks or even Happy Feet was. Sure, the surfing stuff is wicked cool, and the documentary look is really well done, but I wouldn’t put Surf’s Up in any upper pantheon of animated films. And that’s why I’m only giving it a B — a solid B, but a B just the same.