Sunday, June 24, 2007

Surf’s Up / *** (PG)

Featuring the voice talents:
Cody Maverick: Shia LaBeouf
The Geek: Jeff Bridges
Lani Aliikai: Zooey Deschanel
Chicken Joe: Jon Heder
Reggie Belafonte: James Woods
Tank Evans: Diedrich Bader

Sony Pictures Animation presents a film directed by Ash Brannon and Chris Buck. Written by Lisa Addario, Christian Darren, Don Rhymer, and Joe Syracuse. Running time: 85 min. Rated PG (for mild language and some rude humor).

"Surf's Up", the new release from Sony Pictures Animation, combines the popular trends of family-oriented penguin adventures with the popular alternative sport of surfing. Upon the release of this unique “documentary”, A Penny in the Well was able to secure an interview with Edna Maverick, the mother of the movie’s subject penguin, Cody. Here is that interview in its entirety.

A Penny in the Well: Well, I have to admit this is the first time I’ve ever interviewed a penguin, but with the current trend in film toward documenting penguin society, I suppose this was inevitable. How did you feel about having a film crew come into the lives of your family to document your son Cody’s surprising rise to fame in the world of surfing?

Edna Maverick: Well, I always knew Cody would achieve great things. He was always different. I was a little disappointed with the way our community was portrayed in the film. As if no one supported my little baby in his ambitions to become a surfer as great as the Big Z. Come now, a mother who doesn’t believe in her own child? Really! It was more like a “mockumentary” than an actual documentary.

APITW: So life in your home town of Shiverpool is a little different than it is portrayed in the film?

EM: Oh, of course. Don’t let the name fool you. Shiverpool is a very warm place. They just came in to shoot on the days when the weather was at its worst. In fact they staged so much of the film, I sometimes thought my little Cody was in some sort of an episode of “The Real World”. You know the way they seemed to always had cameras where they couldn’t possibly have been, and those confessionals just made Cody’s older brother Glen look like a bully and a mooch. Everything was done for entertainment value. Sure, there are some pretty funny jokes about living only to catch fish and hatch eggs, but the life of a penguin isn’t really all about finding your heartsong and having an ongoing commentary by Morgan Freeman. We we’re just like anybody. We have fun.

APITW: Well, Cody certainly learns a lot about having fun in this movie, and in turn a good deal about how to live a good life.

EM: Yes, Some of the friends he meets may seem like misfits at first, but they really ended up having a good influence on my son. Chicken Joe seems the most misplaced, doesn’t he? Being the only chicken in a world populated by penguins. But he proved to be so loyal to my son, risking his life to look for Cody when he was lost in the jungle. Anybody with any sense would have lost their head when they came across that tribe of cannibal penguins, but Joe persevered through his own haze of ignorance. I think he may partake in that wacky weed, though. I don’t think I like that.

APITW: What about Lani and The Geek?

EM: Oh, yes, well The Geek saved my little boy’s life. I’ll never forget him for that. And he turned out to be such a good teacher, even though he lived like a recluse in the jungle and all. Ooooh, that Lani is a sweet one. And she saved my Cody’s life too, I guess, didn’t she? With those lifeguard skills of hers. She’s a keeper. But she needs to keep a better eye on the little ones, if you know what I mean.

APITW: But not everyone on Pen Gu Island, where Cody goes to participate in the Big Z Memorial Surfing Championship, had his best interests at heart, did they?

EM: Well, that Reggie Belafonte! Ooooh, he is a no good dirty promoter. Always looking for the buck no matter who he steps on, the weasel. (Editor’s Note: Reggie is actually an otter.) He wanted to turn that annual surfing championship into some sort of spectacle, the way he showed that tape of my poor Cody crashing over and over again. It’s just an example of the exploitative nature of the media! Ahem, yourself excluded, of course. And that beast Tank Evans, he’s not an athlete. He’s just a big bully! He should thank his lucky stars that someone like my boy is around to show him what a true sportsman is.

APITW: The surfing sequences were very spectacular. It seems the filmmakers must have studied other great surfing documentaries, like “Riding Giants” or “The Endless Summer”.

EW: Well, if you think so. I really wouldn’t know anything about all that.

APITW: Now, some people reading this may not realize that all I’m hearing from you is a series of clicks and squawks. Without the aid of a translator, I’d have no idea what you were saying. Why don’t you explain just how the filmmakers are getting around that problem in presenting this movie to human audiences?

EM: Well, as I understand it they’ve hired some famous movie stars to provide us all with English dialogue. They got that stoner Jeff Bridges (“The Big Lebowski”) to voice The Geek, which I suppose is appropriate. And that shark James Woods (CBS’s “Shark”) provides Reggie’s words, in another case of typecasting. That kid who played Napoleon Dynomite (Jon Heder) is Chicken Joe. I bet he hangs out with that Bridges fellow after hours. Oh, and they got that sweet, wide-eyed Zooey Deschanel (“Elf”) to provide a voice for Lani. I like her. I hear Shia LaBeouf’s (“Disturbia”) star is really beginning to rise in Hollywood, so I guess he was a good choice for my Cody. And I have no idea who that woman is they got for my voice (Dana Belben). I didn’t recognize her name. As long as they didn’t get that Morgan Freeman. He’s probably off playing God somewhere.

APITW: Now that all of the craziness of making the film is over, are you glad you allowed it?

EM: Well, I’m not going to be moving to Hollywood tomorrow if that’s what you mean. I mean it’s all so fake. Don’t think for a second that what you see in this movie has any basis in reality, but I’m glad for my little boy. And I’m proud of him. He makes for a pretty convincing movie star. And it’s good to see something on the big screen that didn’t just come out of a computer.

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