Talking Movies: Girls Can’t Surf, Seal Team and The Book of Henry

Spling reviews Girls Can’t Surf, Seal Team and The Book of Henry as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Listen to podcast.


Good morning – welcome to Talking Movies, I’m Spling…

This week, we’re talking about a sports documentary, an animated adventure and a crime drama thriller.

Starting off with a documentary now on Showmax…


A band of renegade surfers recount how they took on the male-dominated professional surfing world to achieve equality and change the sport forever.

Writer-Director: Christopher Nelius

Features: Jodie Cooper, Layne Beachley and Wendy Botha

– This bittersweet sports documentary returns to the ’80s to a time when professional women’s surfing kicked off, “a circus of fluro colours, peroxide hair and radical male egos”.
– The film focusses on Australia and captures the Zeitgeist of the international competition, rivalries, developments and politics with a special focus on gender inequality.
– Girls Can’t Surf is mostly powered by women and represents an honest, humourous and important account of the not-so-golden age of surfing.
– While mostly blonde and blue-eyed, the collective of interviewees represent some of the biggest names of all-time: Jodie Cooper, Frieda Zamba, Pauline Menczer, Lisa Andersen, Pam Burridge, Wendy Botha and Layne Beachley.
– Their stick-it-to-the-man attitude fuels the documentary, which bristles with life thanks to brutally honest and laugh-out-loud funny reflections.
– The spectrum of absolute characters is what makes this “docco” such a delight, moving from Wendy Botha’s cantankerous element to beloved surfer of the people, Pam Burridge, and then onto to squirrely go-getter, Layne Beachley.
– Girls Can’t Surf offers insights into the sport’s sluggish evolution, professionalism, outdated views and rise of surf brand sponsorship.
– A comprehensive overview, there’s also space for an emotional perspective on the quest for equality, bucking societal prejudices as well as overcoming industry setbacks.
– Many of these women turned to the waves as an escape from difficult home lives, as a career prospect or for medical reasons making their dominance of the sport a true triumph of the human spirit.

An excellent 8 on the splingometer!

Moving on to a movie now on Netflix…


Fearless seal Quinn assembles a squad of misfit recruits to stand up to ruthless sharks.

Directors: Greig Cameron and Kane Croudace

Features the voice talents of J.K. Simmons, Patrick Warburton and Sharlto Copley

– Seal Team is a long-awaited animated adventure comedy from Triggerfish, a local production company, who created Adventures in Zambezia and Khumba.
– Set in Cape Town, more specifically around Seal Island, the deep sea adventure has a local flavour with the tide of war between seals and sharks.
– Essentially a blend of The A-Team and The Penguins of Madagascar, the ragtag crew of misfits fall in line under the command of a battle-weary leader.
– A love letter to the ’80s, there are a great deal of influences, references and inside jokes – some on the nose and others much more subtle.
– Already quirky having anthropomorphic seals going through a boot camp to take on apex predators, its wacky and absurdist sense of humour is more hit than miss.
– Armed with a considerable and recognisable voice cast, the performances are fun with a particularly energetic Warburton.
– While Seal Team is a modest animated production when you contrast it against the lofty standards of giants such as Disney-Pixar and Dreamworks, it outperforms itself.
– Fluorescent colours brighten the underwater scenes, it pulls off ambitious action sequences, imaginative comedy and keeps adding to its delightful mix of oddball characters.
– Wacky, breezy and playing to pure escapist fun, this silly and enjoyable Seals vs. Sharks animated adventure comedy demonstrates the studio’s steady progress.

It did just enough to get… A solid 7 on the splingometer!

And finally a film on Showmax…


With instructions from her genius son’s carefully crafted notebook, a single mother sets out to rescue a young girl from the hands of her abusive stepfather.

Director: Colin Trevorrow

Stars: Naomi Watts, Jaeden Martell and Jacob Tremblay

– The Book of Henry is an elusive crime drama thriller, which starts down the road of Disturbia only to make some handbrake turns into dangerous genre play.
– This is part of its charm, remaining unpredictable, inventive and constantly morphing to defy audience expectations.
– Already trying to throw the tarp over an ambitious yet intriguing story concept, these bumpy interchanges risk losing viewers along the way.
– What serves as its mainstay are the wholehearted performances from its talented ensemble, which also includes: Dean Norris, Sarah Silverman and Lee Pace.
– The sincerity of the family trio in Watts, Martell and Tremblay keep this applecart on the gravel road as it spirals up a tricky mountain pass.
– Watts brings authenticity, Martell is pure of heart and Tremblay knows how to dial into the emotion of a scene.
– The Book of Henry isn’t a great film but it’s fresh enough to entertain from the humour of a household run by an 11-year-old to the suspense of a scandal waiting to break.
– Brimming with optimism and frustrated by apathy, it’s a spirited tale that takes you to some unexpected places with enough material for two standalone films.

A satisfactory 6 on the splingometer!

So just to wrap up…

GIRLS CAN’T SURF… an engaging, entertaining, funny, eye-opening, powerful and characterful chronicle of surf culture and gender politics… An excellent 8!

SEAL TEAM… a colourful, fun, nutty, imaginative and delightful animated action adventure comedy and ’80s throwback… A satisfactory 6!

THE BOOK OF HENRY… heartfelt and sincere performances guide this ambitious, unpredictable and entertaining multi-genre tale… A satisfactory 6!

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And remember, Don’t WING it, SPL!NG it!