No, this surfing penguin flick isn’t a hastily-scrambled sequel to ‘Happy Feet’. Far from it. In fact, Ash Brannon and Chris Buck have come up with a completely unique approach to the animated film structure, and in doing so have created the world’s first animated mockumentary. It begins with an interview with obstreperous surfer, Cody Maverick (voiced by Shia LaBeouf), who tells us how much he aspires to the skills of the late Z (Jeff Bridges), the dudiest wave-rider in penguin history; amusingly, while Cody reminisces about the past, a selection of archive footage and old snapshots add comic illustration. Later, when Cody’s given a break in the Big Z Memorial Surf-off Contest, the film beds down into a more conventional format, replete with social messages about self esteem, being yourself and so on.
The visuals here are mostly impressive, although more attention appears to have been paid to the cast’s superb facial expressions than to the rendering of the water and backgrounds. Also, one suspects the majority of verbal and visual quips will sail right over the heads of youngsters. In that respect, and despite the characters’ inherent cuteness, it’s arguably the most adult-orientated CGI animation yet. It certainly tickled this writer’s funnybone.