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Surf’s Up: A Generational Comedy

March 9, 2023


There’s still time to catch the wave. 

When it comes to comedies, many movies come to mind: SuperBad, Napoleon Dynamite, Monty Python and the Holy Grail or Ferris Bueller’s Day off, but one movie that doesn’t get nearly the credit is deserved and that is “Surf’s Up”. It’s a movie with the perfect mix of comedy and love. What love you might ask? Love of the game; love of the craft; love of surfing.  

The story begins with our protagonist Cody Maverick, a southern rockhopper penguin, whose only aspiration in life is to make it big in surfing. His only problem: he lives in Antarctica. Cody gets his big break as he takes a trip on the back of a whale to a tropical island for the biggest surfing event of the year, the Big Z Memorial Surf Off. From the moment he arrives on the island, Cody is destined for greatness.

The animated movie is filmed as a “mockumentary”,  satirizing the idea of a real documentary on penguin surfing. So even the idea for “Surf’s Up” is meta [(of a creative work) referring to itself or to the conventions of its genre; self-referential] and hilarious. There are interviews with the contestants that take place during the movie, which have a very “The Officevibe to them, which are absolutely laugh out loud.  

The voice acting by Jeff Bridges, Shia LaBeouf and Jon Heder make each interview have personality and add a layer of realism that is unseen in any other animated movies. Furthermore, the interviews let the audience take a look into the minds of each character, which builds a deeper connection with each penguin (or chicken) and makes the audience have an emotional investment into the plot. 

Thus bringing us to the pinnacle of the whole “Surf’s Up” movie: the characters. The characters in this movie truly bring a sense of humanness that is hard to find in just any animated movie. The audience sees a penguin or chicken or an otter, but more than that, they see themselves. They see their own struggles, desires and longings for success. That is what makes “Surf’s Up” the magnum opus of all animated movies. Beyond the humor, animation or advertising, it’s the truths we learn from an accurate interpretation of our own lives.  

So, for those who haven’t seen “Surf’s Up”, take the hour and 25 minutes to ride the wave of what modern art truly looks like. Currently streaming on Disney+.

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