By John P. McCarthy
NEW YORK (CNS) -- Riding the wave of recent movies featuring penguins, most notably "Happy Feet" and the documentary "March of the Penguins," "Surf's Up" (Columbia) is an animated action-comedy with a relaxed summer vibe.
Directors Ash Brannon and Chris Buck are aware that moviegoers may have had their fill of tuxedo-wearing critters. They set a swift pace and don't overwhelm with a surfeit of barely distinguishable characters. That said, some minor objectionable elements notwithstanding, the directors offer morsels aimed at pleasing even those who think they've had enough of penguins.
The warm-weather diversion earns low scores for originality but higher marks for execution and its winning-isn't-everything message: a lesson from which some hard-driving parents nowadays may benefit as much as their children.
Structured as a mock documentary, "Surf's Up" has a camera crew follow teen penguin Cody Maverick (voiced by Shia LaBeouf) from Shiverpool, Antarctica, to the tropical island of Pen Gu. An avid surfer, Cody enters the Big Z Memorial Surf Off, named in honor of a legendary penguin competitor (Jeff Bridges). He befriends Chicken Joe (Jon Heder), a spacey fowl from Sheboygan, Wis., and falls hard for local lifeguard Lani (Zooey Deschanel).
Most rewardingly, Cody learns the satisfaction of crafting his own board and occasionally taking the time to mellow out on a pristine beach. The movie-within-a-movie gimmick and other stock elements don't have a chance to wear thin. In light of the film's tidy 85-minute length, families so inclined will be able to celebrate the great outdoors themselves in what seems like a flash.
The film contains a fair amount of mildly rude language and toilet humor. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
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McCarthy is a guest reviewer for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Office for Film & Broadcasting. More reviews are available online at www.usccb.org/movies.
Singapore rating: G - General
Running Time: 87 mins
Running Time: 87 mins