By Forrest Hartman
Rated PG for thematic elements and some perilous action
20th Century Fox
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, digital download and on demand
Surfing is inherently cinematic thanks to the visual beauty of waves crashing against a beach and the danger that accompanies the most extreme versions of the sport. For many filmmakers, this combination is too good to pass up, making surf films a genre of their own.
The latest picture to enter the fray is “Chasing Mavericks,” a consistently entertaining project that does a lot of things right, yet fails to move beyond Hollywood clichés. The film is based on the real-life story of Santa Cruz surf star Jay Moriarity; and it focuses on his teen years, in particular his relationship with big wave surfer Frosty Hesson.
As portrayed by newcomer Jonny Weston, Jay is a natural-born surfer determined to conquer the biggest waves around. For him, that means the legendary Mavericks area, located on the California coast near Half Moon Bay. Although just a boy, Jay is able to convince Frosty (Gerard Butler) to teach him the ins and outs of surfing in this dangerous environment.
Like most sports movies, “Chasing Mavericks” follows Jay as he plows through a relentless training regimen. And, like most sports movies, the action peaks when he finally gets a shot at his dream. Weston is solid in the lead role, and Butler is likable and believable as a weathered surf mentor.
The movie also benefits from the talent of two veteran directors: Curtis Hanson (“L.A. Confidential,” “8 Mile”) and Michael Apted (“Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “The World Is Not Enough”). Sharing the reins, they keep the film moving at a solid pace that allows viewers to invest in the story and look beyond the fact that they’ve likely seen the same material in numerous other films.
Any good surf movie depends heavily on visuals, and cinematographers Oliver Euclid and Bill Pope capture some fantastic big wave sequences. Perhaps even more importantly, editor John Gilbert makes it look as though it’s actually Weston and Butler surfing those giant waves.
“Chasing Mavericks” is too much like “Blue Crush,” “Soul Surfer” and other recent surf movies to become a classic, but it is entertaining and a nice memorial to Jay Moriarity.
DVD and Blu-ray extras include an audio commentary by Apted and writers Brandon Hooper and Jim Meenaghan.