Surf’s Up (2007): A Forgotten Animated Gem

Surf’s Up will go down as one of, if not my favourite animated film of all time.

Now, that’s naturally an extremely bold claim and not one I expect to be shared by everyone but let me take you through why I feel this often neglected cult classic is up there as one of the all time animated greats.

First and foremost, the most striking thing about this warm little animated family film is just how good it looks. The visuals in this movie are stunning, from the rolling waves to the luscious rainforest and even the detail given to the characters, it’s unbelievable. Whoever brought in the design team for this one deserves absolutely all the credit in the world because for something made in 2007, I wouldn’t bat an eye if it was in cinemas today 15 years later.

The way that the sun shines through the foamy waves in this movie is just so comforting and sets the tone of the film perfectly, giving the beauty to the sport of surfing exactly the justice which Surf’s Up is trying to give it.

Alongside gorgeous visuals you then have probably one of the best soundtracks in recent film history with the likes of Incubus, Green Day, Lauryn Hill, Sugar Ray and Dirty Heads combining to give this movie an absolutely glorious set of music. More than this though the tracks reflect that earthly, laid back freedom that surfing represents.

And so there is this beautiful continuity throughout the film between the central plot and theme as well as the music and the visuals, it’s just a perfect combination of the senses that without even needing to touch the characters or plot sets the movie up for such a wholesome and enjoyable experience.

With that being said, the cast on this movie is equally fantastic. Best represented by the lead of Cody Maverick being fantastically voiced by Shia LaBeouf the cast does an amazing job giving the characters real and authentic personality. So often you see poorly cast animated films with emotionless, or even worse overly-emotive voices behind the main characters.

Surf’s Up gets it just right. You can’t help but fall in love with the curious innocence of the budding Cody Maverick who finds himself as a small fish in a big pond on Pen Gu Island. There’s so much personality in this movie, from the enigmatic Geek through to the narcissistic Tank Evans.

The documentary-style format of the movie is also an absolute stroke of genius. The style of the film was a breath of fresh air for the industry, with the free camera movement giving an intimacy to the movie which allows the sadder moments to be more emotional but the funny and joyous ones all the more enjoyable.

There is an earthly atmosphere to the movie that makes you connect so much with both the story and the characters. You’re invested from the outset and just want to see your budding penguin lift the trophy, but then as things go on you realise (just before he does) that you’d rather see him happy with his friends more than anything else.

As I’ve gotten older this film has only gotten funnier. The warmth of Cody’s moral journey away from the glory and towards more relational success has remained all the same but the jokes slotted throughout never cease to get a laugh. From Tank Evans blasting little penguins desperately trying to escape out of the water through to the entire character of Chicken Joe, I’ll never walk away from the movie without a good set of laughs. Something lacking pretty heavily in recent animated works.

Surf’s Up is a family movie with something slotted in for everyone, it’s the classic underdog arc done to absolute perfection in less than 90 minutes.

The movie doesn’t drag on and you never get bored, it’s a perfect casual watch and you might just learn a thing or two along the way.

What’s not to like.

It came out in 2007 but I’m giving a rating anyway.

I love this one. Enough said.

9/10

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