Bodhi is swimming in his grave right about now.
The movie centers on the real life relationship between the late surfing phenom Jay Moriarty (Jonny Weston) and his legendary mentor Frosty Hesson (Gerard Butler) as they embark on a quest to surf five-story tall waves known as “Mavericks”.
As far as surfing moves go, 1) there hasn’t been many, and 2), the best of them all is probably Point Break. Say what you will in the comments and talk about how Point Break isn’t really a surfing movie, as much as it is a crime-thriller with the surfing element but seriously, try and not associate surfing with that movie when you think of it. If you’re not sure about that statement, well then be sure about this statement: you sure as hell won’t associate THIS movie with surfing, I can promise ya that.
Coming from director Curtis Hanson (aka, the guy who directed most of it, only to be replaced with two weeks left of shooting due to health issues), you’d expect something very inspirational, full of energy, and able to hit you in the heart and make you weep like a little bitch. The reason I say this is because the guy’s given us many great flicks like L.A. Confidential, Wonder Boys, and the one I think this one compares to the most, 8 Mile. No matter what you may say about that last film I mentioned, it’s inspirational, has a good story, and had a nice lead character, something that this movie seemed like it could have been but just ended up dropping the ball on big-time.
It’s obvious that the promise of the tale of surfing legend Jay Moriarty was there, but it just never comes full-circle and seems like a long, dull drag until you’ve had enough with these damn kids, surfing, and the ocean. Maybe the fact that I’m not part of the surf culture is the reason that I don’t get what’s so special about this kid, but there was just nothing here to really grab me and have me involved one-bit with this story. The surfing scenes were sometimes cool to look-at, but that’s about it, and I was surprised that there was barely any type of energy thrown into this flick at all. The only times I really felt like this film was moving at a solid-pace was when they would throw some nice-ass 90’s tune in for easy-listening, and even they felt a little misplaced since half of the scenes consisted of guys paddling out into the sea. It’s a pretty boring experience that definitely does not give you the rush or energy that goes into surfing, or the surf culture itself. Seriously man, this movie needed Bodhi, and big-time, too.
Aside from the cheap surfing scenes, the story here is pretty uninvolving and just comes off like a normal, day-of-the-week TV special. The main story of Moriarty could be pretty inspirational and exciting, but they never show the kid as a human-being and make him out to be this sunny-eyed kid, with beautiful, blond hair, beautiful aspirations for life, and not a single problem going on for him. Hell, I think the only problem the kid had was a note from his father that he didn’t read for 5 years or so and if that was his only problem, jeesh, he should have considered himself one, lucky mother ‘effer. Now, I never knew the real Moriarty and I’ve never read anything on him, to know if he was a bad kid or not, but there had to be at least a little something wrong with him. Maybe he liked little boys? Maybe he robbed banks in his down-time? Maybe he had a secret fetish for feet? Who knows?!?!? All I do know is, that he definitely was not the latter-day saint this movie had portrayed him as and it just got to bother me after awhile.
The main part of the reason why I was so annoyed by this kid was mainly because of Jonny Weston‘s cardboard performance as him. I’ve never seen Weston before, and I’m pretty sure he’s going to have a bright-future ahead of him with a body and good-looks like that, but he cannot act for crap and this movie just proves that. The kid is painfully bland, rarely ever shows any type of emotions, and is not easy to connect with, just because he’s the same-old, underdog we have seen time, and time again. Except, this time, he has no problems in life and can still get by the fact that this big wave he wants to take, may be the last one he ever takes, ever. And when I mean “ever”, I mean that his life will be over. That’s why it will be his last one.
Even though this is Jay’s story, Gerard Butler somehow gets top-billing over him as the guy’s mentor, Frosty Hesson and is fine, but also dull, even though it’s not as painful to watch as it was for Weston. There’s something about Butler that makes it seem like he has a crap-load of charm to throw-out all over us from the screen, but never gets the chance to because he gets put in crap like this, The Ugly Truth, and that one coming-up, Playing for Keeps. Butler does what he can here with a role that’s thinly-written, but all of the subplots that come along with his character just weighs everything down (if that was even possible), and never really felt fully-developed for me, either. And seriously dude, drop the fuckin’ Scottish accent. You’re a gnarly, surfing-dude from Santa Cruz and you sound like William Wallace.
Perhaps the most interesting character of the whole cast was the gal who played his wifey, Abigail Spencer, who seems like she has a lot of problems with his love and dedication to surfing, and not his love and dedication to their kids. She’s got a nice role and does what she can with it, but once again, she never feels fully-developed and her story ends up getting little or no focus. And since we’re talking about a mommy that’s in this film, let me just get right down to talking about Elisabeth Shue and what the hell her career has been bringing her nowadays. Shue is a beautiful woman, who is still pushing a surprising 49-years of age, and definitely has great talent that could still get some Oscar-looks, but yet, she still finds herself as the beaten, battered, and dysfunctional, single-mommy in films like Mysterious Skin, House at the End of the Street, and Piranha 3-D. Seriously, there is so much more to this gal than Hollywood is giving her credit for and I think it’s time for her to go back and see what she can do as an older, more accomplished hooker now. Leaving Las Vegas 2 anyone?
Consensus: Though the surf culture will probably eat this movie up from start-to-finish (if they can remember it), Chasing Mavericks is still not a film that’s worth seeing by others because of it’s thinly-written characters, lack of energy, and nothing to really grab-on to and take ahold of you. It’s just there, and that’s pretty much it.