Reviewing the Reviews: 'Surf's Up'

Surf_lSeeing that it follows in the little webbed footsteps of March of the Penguins, Happy Feet, and Madagascar, it’s a good bet Sony Pictures execs harbored some concerns that Surf’s Up, its new entry into the penguin-theme cinematic sweepstakes, might suffer from a case of CPB (Critical Penguin Burnout). But a scan of today’s (mostly positive) newspaper reviews proves such fears were unfounded. EW’s own Lisa Schwarzbaum gives Surf’s Up a B+, and I’ve divvied up the remaining reviews into two camps:

Pro-Penguin
Peter Hartlaub, San Francisco Chronicle: "The last thing filmgoers needed this summer was another penguin movie…. But don’t dismiss Surf’s Up on the basis of its protagonist…. The entertaining new film from Sony Pictures Animation is a nice surprise, and the rare mainstream American kid film that makes an effort to try something new."

Christy Lemire, The Associated Press: "What the world needs now is not another penguin movie…. But Surf’s Up is so different from its predecessors, and so different from the slew of animated films that have come out in the past couple of years, it’s hard not to be charmed."

Rob Salem, Toronto Star: "The notion of penguins uttering phrases like ‘gnarly’ and ‘bitchin’ and referring to each other as ‘dude’ just seemed, in anticipation, somehow horribly wrong. I stand corrected. Surf’s Up is quite surprisingly good, going for the subtle chuckle where Happy Feet opted for show-stopping spectacle."

Chris Kaltenbach, Baltimore Sun: "Penguins, those new rock stars of the animal world, continue their winning streak with Surf’s Up."

Jim Slotek, Winnipeg Sun: "After March Of The Penguins, Happy Feet and even an R-rated spoof (Bob Saget’s Farce Of The Penguins),another go-round with our black-tie-ready seabirds needs to go in apretty offbeat direction to make its mark. The consistently funny,CG-animated ‘surfing penguins’ movie Surf’s Up is certainly offbeat. I mean, c’mon, surfing penguins?"

Carla Meyer, McClatchy Newspapers: "Surf’s Up is yet another film about penguins, but it’s still original."

Michelle Kung, Boston Globe: "Unlike its predecessors, Surf’s Up, the latest CGI entry in the booming penguin oeuvre, is actually more in sync with Riding Giants, Stacy Peralta’s 2004 documentary ode to the sport, than with George Miller’s Oscar-winning sing-along Happy Feet."

Anti-Penguin
Amy Biancolli, Houston Chronicle:"I’m done with penguins. I don’t care what kind they are, what skillsthey have, what language they speak or whether they sit on eggs untiltheir tufts freeze. I don’t care if they can sing, dance, ride waves orperform brain surgery with their flippety-floppety feet. Penguins:finito."

Jeannette Catsoulis, The New York Times:"To deliver its winning-isn’t-everything message, this ho-hum additionto the kiddie canon follows Cody Maverick (engagingly voiced by ShiaLaBeouf), a young Rockhopper penguin with surfing in his blood anddreams of greatness in his head…. A moratorium on penguins might becalled for, despite the inevitable anthropomorphic void."


Comments (17 total) Add your comment
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  • ceej

    Any movie that stops these insane parents from taking their little crying ones to see “Hostel” or “Knocked up” this weekend gets an A+ in my book.

  • Ceballos

    What those excerpts didn’t mention is that what seems to be setting this movie apart from previous entries in the genre (yes, it’s a genre now!) isn’t so much the fact that penguins are doing something you wouldn’t expect them to do (surf), but the storytelling technique of structuring the movie as a Christopher Guest/”The Office”-style mockumentary. That, more than anything, gives me hope that this kids movie might have a little something more on its mind.
    Also, Amy Biancolli needs to refill her subscription for chill pills.

  • JAY

    I think it’s really irresponsible of a movie critic to give a bad review just because they are sick of penguins- give me a break.

  • MoroccoMole

    Movies.com’s Dave White is not having it:

    http://movies.go.com/surfs-up/r853941/family

  • LisaMama

    Why is it okay to use “b#@chin” in a kids’ movie?

  • Nix

    For once I am pro-global warming.

  • Ben

    I think that it’s totally appropriate for a critic to give a scathing review based on the film’s use of penguins. At least the penguins in Madagascar, and yes, Happy Feet (which I loathed), made some sense. How they got from penguins to surfing is a total mystery. When I saw the trailer, the first thing I thought, after “sweet! FINALLY a surfing movie”, was “not ANOTHER penguin movie.” Sony is totally milking penguins for all they’re worth. It’s like when there was a lot of talk about robots and every major studio came out with a movie about robots (A.I., I Robot, Bicentennial Man) and even that trend wasn’t as annoying or a display of blatant milkage.

  • Lissa

    Why does everyone seem to be all fascinated with penguins? There are far cooler animals but you don’t see any goat movies do you?! I really hate penguins. I remember seeing this trailer…was about 10 mins long…ASIF!!!

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