This animated mock documentary directed by Chris Buck (TARZAN) and Ash Brannon (TOY STORY 2) follows penguin Cody Maverick (Shia LaBeouf) from his hometown of Shiverpool, Antarctica, where all of the other penguins think he's a surfing fool, to the "Big Z Memorial Surf Off" on Pen Gu Island. This teenage penguin is determined to win the most important competition in the world of penguin surfing in honor of "Big Z," a deceased surfing legend whom he has idolized since childhood. But the waves in Pen Gu are different than in Shiverpool, and the competition is steep. The current champ, egotistical Tank Evans (Diedrich Bader), isn't about to let this little penguin knock him from first place without a fight. When Cody wipes out and encounters Geek (Jeff Daniels), a recluse living in the jungle, he learns some important lessons about life and surfing, and even teaches Geek a thing or two.
The documentary/reality show format is a delightful surprise, and side interviews with other characters make it particularly effective. The attention to detail in this feature is terrific. The foam, waves, sand, expressions, and movements are all quite realistic, and the voices are spot on. Shia LaBeouf hits the mark perfectly as Cody, and Jeff Daniels is fun as the aging former surfer, Geek, who imparts his wisdom to the newbie. Mario Cantone voices the perpetually exasperated talent scout, Mikey, who works for sports promoter Reggie (James Woods). Jon Heder and Zooey Deschanel also lend their talents as midwestern surfer dude Chicken Joe and the lovely lifeguard Lani, respectively. Sports Penguin Entertainment Network (SPEN) correspondents Kelly Slater and Rob Machado are voiced by their real-life surfing-legend counterparts. A soundtrack including a number of past pop hits is also a nice touch.