Chasing Mavericks
dir Curtis Hanson, Michael Apted
scr Kario Salem
prd Curtis Hanson, Brandon Hooper, Mark Johnson, Jim Meenaghan
with Gerard Butler, Jonny Weston, Elisabeth Shue, Abigail Spencer, Leven Rambin, Taylor Handley, Devin Crittenden, Jenica Bergere, Cooper Timberline, Greg Long, Peter Mel, Zach Wormhoudt
release US 26.Oct.12, UK 5.Jul.13
12/US Fox 1h56
Chasing Mavericks
Staring at the sea: Butler and Weston

shue spencer handley
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Chasing Mavericks Based on the true story of surfing prodigy Jay Moriarty, this film is painfully family-friendly from the start. It actually opens with a scene involving an adorable puppy. And every moment features relentless sunshine on smiling, tanned faces. But the camera work is superb, and there's a great story here if you can find it.

In 1987 Santa Cruz, California, 9-year-old Jay (Timberline) is obsessed by the tide, gaining a personal hero when salty surfer Frosty (Butler) rescues him from the waves. Jay's single mother (Shue) has retreated into sleepy alcoholism, leaving Jay to bond with reluctant father-figure Frosty, who is trying to avoid his wife (Spencer) and children. But of course he spots raw talent in Jay, and seven years later Jay (now Weston) tries to talk him into taking him out to ride the mythical maverick, a monster wave that only comes along once every few months.

The script takes a cheesy after-school special approach, with its absent father/drunken mother set-up, plus a bat-wielding local bully (Handley), a tastefully sexy surfer chick (Rambin) and even a brutal landlord demanding the the rent money. The Karate Kid-style plot is by-the-books with very few surprises and characters who are blanded-down cliches rather than real people. Fortunately, the film also features lots of spectacular cinematography by Bill Pope.

In the often thrilling surfing scenes, the film sometimes achieves the inspirational surge it's so clearly going for with the lacklustre drama. It doesn't help that both Butler and Weston are thoroughly uninteresting, only occasionally revealing their inner passion for surfing. Mainly they're just tetchy and bullheaded in a movie sort of way that's utterly toothless. And the story's three women are mere placeholders. (It should be a crime to waste Shue like this.)

As the story progresses, directors Hanson and Apted (who stepped in when Hanson fell ill) strain to build tension as the time approaches for Jay to face his own maverick. And while there isn't any real suspense, the sequence is so stunningly well-shot that it takes our breath away. And it finally gives us some insight into Jay Moriarty's unquenchable inability to stay away from the sea. Which is a lot more moving than the pushy father-son sentimentality.

cert pg themes, some scary moments 1.Jul.13

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© 2013 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall