Surf's Up Ash Brannon and Chris Buck

Everybody loves penguins. What’s not to love about a flightless, tuxedo-clad bird that waddles? But Hollywood needs to pull the plug on any more features starring our aquatic feathery friend. That said, Surf’s Up is a surprisingly enjoyable family flick that takes the bird out of its arctic element and into a sunny paradise on a surfboard. Cody Maverick (Shia LaBeouf) is a hapless dreamer who only wants to emulate his hero, surfing legend Big Z, and become a champion. When he manages to qualify for the Big Z Memorial Surf Contest, he leaves the cold surroundings of Shiverpool to compete on the sunny Pen Gu Island. Upon arrival, he meets fellow surfer Chicken Joe (Jon Heder) and lifeguard Lani (Zooey Deschanel), as well as Tank (Diedrich Bader), the bullying champ. After a trial run, where he’s literally blown out of the water, Cody meets the reclusive Geek (Jeff Bridges in a role that resembles "the Dude”), a guru with a secret who helps him recover and prep for the big surf off. Surf’s Up manages to enhance a fairly predictable, formulaic tale by taking a satirical, carefree slant — just like a true surfer dude — and focusing on having fun with such a contrary idea: penguins invented surfing. Also, the film’s choice in using a documentary approach to shooting gives it an endearing advantage; the film’s CGI is boosted with an authentic handheld camera look, which allows plenty of playful moments, and the constant use of flashbacks and archival footage show how serious Brannon and Buck were about making this a legit mockumentary. The "lost scenes” are all, unfortunately, unfinished animated storyboard sketches, which aren’t attractive unless you’re desperate for more. "Arnold’s Zurfinary” is a lesson on "zurfing” taught by the wee penguin; it’s cute but strictly for the kids, or anyone that wants extremely basic tips on riding waves. A featurette shows the actors behind the scenes voicing the characters together in the same room, in order to provide some chemistry and allow them to adlib or interact physically. Another examines the film’s documentary style, which required a special camera to capture the handheld effect — basically a camcorder moving around and recording a laid out virtual world. "Making Waves,” on the other hand, shows the cast and crew taking a field trip to the beach in order to experience and understand the subject. "Secret Spot” offers fun and games, including a totally tubular option where you can make your own custom surf board and then see Cody ride it. For some amusement, two animated shorts are tacked on featuring the Chubbchubbs, including the Oscar-winning entry and a brand new Christmas special, both of which are recommended for those who enjoy slapstick alien parodies. Plus: gallery, commentary. (Sony)