Sunday, August 05, 2007


RUNTIME: 85 min.

What’s black (&white) and one of Hollywood’s biggest stars? The answer: The Penguin. But this time around it stars in a one-trick wonder of a movie. Shot as a mockumentary, the film’s ingenuity rapidly fades as the film progresses. What is left with us at the end is a film that barely manages to take us a ferry, forget giving us the ride of our lives on one of those surfboards. Although much smarter than Sony Pictures Animation’s first foray Open Season, Surf’s Up seamlessly becomes a generic product despite starting off more than promisingly.
Apart from the ingenious approach, which by the way feels too sophisticated for children, there’s nothing in the movie that an adult would feel at home with. And even the approach is just that- a clever idea. It is never the creators’ intention to be true to that approach. There are a number of sequences that just don’t come by means of a documentary. Cliché-wise, Surf’s Up scores a resounding 10 out of a maximum of 10. Things happen just so easily and we’re never part of the ride either.
It is frustrating too for a movie that reportedly cost $120 million to make to see all those “imperfections”, “shaky hand held camera” and related tricks just to drive home the “documentary” feel. Why go to lengths to spend that entire amount is out of the realms of my comprehension. This is where I find myself cross with the creators. Rather than spending copious amounts on such cosmetic, shallow techniques why not spend some amount on the story. The story just feels lazy; the movie loses all steam during the half-time. The movie’s running time is a paltry 85 minutes but to make someone look at the watch sure is an indicator of the effort spent on the story. And whenever there is nothing to tell, there’s that documentary approach where inconsequential characters are shown being interviewed. It does seem a bit funny at the start but the same jokes just keep repeating, jokes that make us surf-bored rather than look for the surfing board. Another go-to is the sea waves. When nothing happens the sea- waves come in to pitch in some visuals.
The voice-over talents aren’t exactly special. Jeff Bridges sometimes is barely audible. He feels terribly tired and uninspired rather than “The Dude” laid back. Shia LaBeouf is good as Cody Maverick; in fact he is the best. But everyone suffers from a lack of genuinely witty one-liners. There is one-“Why don’t you head over to the snack bar and get yourself a big bowl of shut up?” but that is the only one I can remember. And all that when there were five writers credited for the job. There’s a reason why Pixar comes up with these animated masterpieces and it has a lot to do with the geniuses out there. Meanwhile, Surf’s Up is just another of those animated ones whose sole purpose is to unload you of some green. Just too smart for kids to get it and too unimaginative for adults to feel at home.

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