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Surf's Up

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Movie audiences can't get enough of penguins these days, whether au naturel in documentaries, or shakin' their tail-feathers to cheesy pop songs in animated comedies. Ash Bannon and Chris Buck's new family-fun film splits the difference: It's a digitally animated mockumentary about penguins who surf. Young Cody heads to a big surf-off, held in honor of the legendary wave-rider Big Z, presumed drowned years ago. The competition is cutthroat, but on the back side of the island, Cody meets a grizzled old bird, who knows a lot about old-school surf techniques. Surf's Up offer the usual simple lessons about believing in your dreams, but it conveys them in an amiable, pleasantly shaggy manner. The better-than-average teen actor Shia LaBeouf voices Cody, and, in a great fit, Jeff Bridges, speaks for Big Z, the burnt-out Zen master of the wave. Kids will surely adore the variety of cute talking penguins, but I dug the film's allegiance to old-school surfing ethos. And while nothing takes the place of being in the curl -- or heading for the ocean floor in a wipe-out -- the animation of such scenes was superb. Starts Fri., June 8. (AH)

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