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Monday, May 12, 2008

Guess the movie

I am going to describe a movie to you and I want to see if you can guess it.

A teenager on the cusp of being an adult leaves his home where he is the best surfer. His home is not a typical surf location and it seems odd that he is so good at the sport. He travels a great distance to surf the great waves on a tropical island. Upon his immediate arrival his naiveté in surfing big waves is shown as he crashes and becomes injured. He makes nice with a local girl, becomes friends with a fellow with an animal name, and gets taken under the wing of an old soul surfer who tries to show him the true meaning of surfing. After learning in three days what takes most real surfers years to accomplish he enters a surf competition against a champion who tends to play dirty to win. In the end he loses the competition but gets the girl and the respect of the surfing brethren that recognize him as a true soul surfer who doesn't just shred waves but communes with the ocean. This of course all happens to a rocking soundtrack.

Now, if you're a ten old and I just described that movie to you, your answer would probably be Surf's Up!

If you're in your 30's like I am, your answer would be North Shore.

To say there is no more originality in Hollywood would be an overused and understatement. It seems like the only movies that are being made are either adaptations of books, sequels, or remakes. Although, some remakes are truly intentional while some are by accident.

Truthfully, the general population has probably never heard of North Shore. After all, it's not like it won any Oscars or broke any records at the box office. It was a small swell in a heinous set of movies that were offered in the 80's. The kind that took the fish out of water and gave him ability to breathe on dry land while overcoming all odds to win the day and get the girl.

I will say that Surf's Up is one of those movies that gets it right, though. Yeah, you can look at it for its moralistic message of being true to yourself and never giving up, but underneath that is a bigger accomplishment, realistic CGI. I'm not talking about blades of glass that move with the wind or environments that look like they are straight out of a Corona advertisement. I'm talking about natural looking movements among the characters as they surf. Of course, these are animals, and Hollywood's ability to anthropomorphize animals has evolved exponentially since the days of The Little Mermaid. If only they could say the same with the ability to animate the human form realistically. If you don't understand what I mean, take a look at the Polar Express and you can almost hear Robert Shaw describing the human characters by saying, "He's got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll's eyes." Setting the film up as a mockumentary on the young Cody Maverick's quest for surfing stardom, the animators were able to realistically capture that hand held camera wobble motion that doesn't leave you with a case of the Cloverfields. I was truly amazed at how well everything was drawn or *ahem,* rendered.

The other thing that Surf's Up has got going for it above other animated films is the quick fire delivery of its actors. The actors recorded their dialogue in the studio together, rather than seperately. Usually, animated films are created by having the actors record their dialogue in a booth, seperate from other actors. Sometimes, the director will ask the actor to do several takes with different emotions and inflections to capture the essence of what they are trying to accomplish. It's not like you have any other actors to react against when you are saying lines. Here, the actors could play off each other and the tempo and rhythym could flow like a wave, if you will. Not to mention, you are working with some top actors in the field of ebb and flow dialogue. After all, Jeff Bridges slips quite comfortably into his old "Dude" robe from The Big Lebowski portraying "Geek" a riff on his Dude persona replacing White Russians for clams. Shia LeBeouf proves that he's got the chops to go toe to toe with most actors and most machines as he was one of two humans in Transformers that I could actually stand, the other being Josh Duhamel. One can only hope that his ability to improv and riff will be well matched with Harrison Ford and Stephen Spielberg in Indy IV, out this month. Shia also makes nice with Zooey Deschanel as Lani, his main 'guin girl and her acting skills are only overshadowed by her lost puppy look on screen which is not an issue here. For evidence, see Tin Man on Sci-Fi.

For me, though, the allure wasn't realistic talking Penguins or funny jokes, it was about the surfing. Surf's Up nailed the motion in the ocean, albeit a Penguin's notion of motion in the ocean. I didn't even mind the similarities to the earlier movie about a surfing teen from a non surfing locale. North Shore was my favorite film growing up and I wanted to be a surfer after seeing it. Of course, I wanted to be a big time executive or stock broker after watching The Secret of My Success. God help me if I had seen Repo Man as a kid. Still, I have been infatuated with surfing from a outsider's persective, all of my life. It's the one thing I've always wanted to do. I have a special respect for the ocean and when I am at the East Coast beaches along the Carolinas I always make it a point to do some body surfing. Yeah, I became a monday morning surfer in terms of buying the posters for my bedroom wall and trying to adapt the lingo, brau. But I'm just a Haole. Of course, most true surfers would think my love of North Shore is about as pathetic as a NASCAR fan's love of Days of Thunder, but I don't care. I became a fan of surfing because of that movie. But, kids grow up, and childhood loves disappear faster than a virgin on prom night. That is, until something comes along that revives the passion. Sometimes, it might just be a movie that seems a lot like a remake but still has the freshness of today's catch.

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