Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Chasing Mavericks Movie Review

I've mentioned in the other two surf movies I've reviewed, Ride the Wild Surf and Soul Surfer, that I like to think I was a surfer in a previous life. I don't necessarily patronize surfing movies that often; they're usually at a basic level the same as any other sports movie. However, I found myself watching Chasing Mavericks (2012) the other day. While it was also a lot like other sports movies, I rather I liked it.
Fifteen-year-old Jay Moriarity (Jonny Weston) discovers the mythic Mavericks surf break, one of the biggest waves on Earth, is not only real, but exists just miles from his Santa Cruz home. Eager to take on the legendary waves, he enlists the help of local surf legend Frosty Hesson (Gerard Butler) to help him survive it. As Jay and Frosty embark on their quest to accomplish the impossible, they form a unique friendship that transforms both their lives, and their quest to tame Mavericks becomes about far more than surfing.
As was the case in Soul Surfer, Chasing Mavericks is based on a real person and true events. Jay Moriarity was an accomplished surfer and waterman. He gained international fame when his wipeout at Mavericks was caught on film and made the cover of Surfer magazine. He also co-authored "The Ultimate Guide to Surfing." While Jay seems to have lead a relatively short life, he was highly passionate about everything he did. That's the sort of person that a good biopic tries to glorify.
Jonny Weston is a newcomer to the big screen. He's actually not too bad. His inexperience is evident, but for a first major motion picture he performs admirably. The characterized Jay is interesting. Jay is a remarkably optimistic and hopeful young man despite his circumstances living in a poor neighborhood with an alcoholic mother who can't hold down a job and pay the bills. There are many times as the character and story unfolds that you can't help but think, "Aww... he's such a good kid." Realistic? Maybe not, but he's the kind of kid you'd love to know.
Gerard Butler is good, as usual. His American accent isn't always very convincing, but he brings an intense presence to the movie with his stern, hardened looks and his often booming voice. Frosty is a mentor, and like most mentor characters he puts his mentee through hell but keeps encouraging Jay to keep going. Their relationship is a typical mentor/mentee bond that you've seen in movies dozens of times before, but both characters are fun to watch and the actors bounce off each other pretty well.
I've mentioned in both Ride the Wild Surf and Soul Surfer that the surf photography was highly impressive. Well, I think Chasing Mavericks was even better! The Mavericks waves were not just big, they were monstrous! Frosty says they were the size of five-story buildings at one point. Seeing boats on the ocean get heaved around by these waves was scary. As the waves crashed down upon the ocean, the water foams and froths so much that it occasionally looks like Jay is snowboarding rather than surfing. Okay, maybe it's just difficult to get lousy surf photography or something, but I was once again impressed by it in Chasing Mavericks.
The story we are offered is surely one you've already seen. The young athlete taking on a new lofty challenge in his or her sport, while a grumpy mentor whips them into shape, followed by some emotional drama at home and in relationships, rivals and bullies try to throw our hero for a loop, etc. The story is very cliché, and doesn't go out of its way to do anything bold or new. Frankly I think Chasing Mavericks manages to naturally achieve the spiritual or at least philosophical quality that Soul Surfer failed to accomplish for all its desperate efforts.  The story is not so predictable that you can accurately guess specifics of the next scene; movies which do that are truly abysmal. But even though Chasing Mavericks sticks to tried and true story points, it still remains interesting enough to enjoy.
Chasing Mavericks was an enjoyable surf movie, even if it was a cliché sports movie with a standard mentor/mentee character dynamic. It's sweet, gentle, and affably modest on the whole, but the script feel lacking somehow. The dialogue isn't always convincing and that makes the story feel trite. Nevertheless, I was bonkers over the surf photography, I liked the two main characters, and surfing is cool on a matter of principle. If you don't mind the stereotypical nature of the movie, Chasing Mavericks is worth the rental price. Even though I liked it, I didn't quite think it was worth the cost to own a copy.

What is your favorite mentor/mentee duo? Comment below and tell me why!

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