Chasing Mavericks

Directed By: Curtis Hansen and Michael Apte

Starring: Gerard Butler, Leven Rambin, Jonny Weston, Elisabeth Shue, Abigail Spencer, and Taylor Handley

"We all come from the sea. But we are not all of the sea. Those of us who are, we children of the tides, must return to it again and again."
-Frosty Hesson (Gerard Butler)

I'm not a risk-taker, at least not when it comes to my physical health.  I'm certainly not one who would ever willingly put myself in harm's way purely for the sake of it.  Aside from the minor detail that I don't live in California, that's the reason why I'm not a surfer.  All jokes aside, surfing is a dangerous hobby, and I have to respect those who have the passion to do it.  I also have to respect those who bring it to life on the big screen.  Catching the waves on camera isn't so simple.  That's why I was curious about Chasing Mavericks, the film on the young, short life of the late surfing superstar Jay Moriarity.

As a young boy, Jay Moriarity (Jonny Weston) saw he had a love for the sea.  While out with his friend Kim (Leven Rambin) on the coast, he ends up getting a little too close to the tide, and the waves take him down.  Luckily, local surfing legend Frosty Hesson (Butler) is nearby and rescues Jay.  Years later, Jay still has a love for the sea.  Now a casual surfer, he wants to surf the biggest wave he can find.  When he follows Frosty on a surfing trip and discovers that mythical giant waves known as mavericks actually exist, he sees his dream, to conquer those waves.  He's going to need Frosty's help though because he's only got 12 weeks to become the skilled surfer he needs to be to chase mavericks.

Chasing Mavericks unfortunately has reminded me of an age-old lesson.  Curiosity killed the cat my friends.  Likewise, Chasing Mavericks obliterated my interest in surfing movies.  Gerard Butler's Frosty speaks of the "four pillars of the human foundation" throughout the film.  Well, Butler's directors Curtis Hansen and Michael Apte fail to build a solid movie based on the four pillars of good filmmaking — writing, directing, acting, and setting.

The writing in Chasing Mavericks is shoddy to say the least.  It's cheesy.  It's predictable.  It's even hollow at times.  This is all evident in the fact that the dialogue in this flick is absolutely horrible.  I know what you're thinking, however.  "It's a surfing movie based on a true story.  Good writing isn't essential."  There's nothing further from the truth.  There's a certain formula of cheese and fun that most surfing movies have.  Because the film is lacking in the writing department, Chasing Mavericks can't perfect this formula.  No matter how great the real story is, it can't overcome poor writing.

Directors Curtis Hansen and Michael Apte also drop the ball in Chasing Mavericks.  They drag every scene out with unnecessary minutiae.  For example, Hansen and Apte spend too much time focused on the stale romance between Jonny Weston's Jay and Leven Rambin's Kim.  They waste a lot of time by having Jay stare longingly at Kim only to be rejected each time.  One boring stare is enough.  They waste even more time dragging out awkward conversations between the two because Weston and Rambin have no chemistry when they're together on screen.  Directing like this really bloats the film and makes a poorly written film even worse.

The film isn't helped by the fact that there's a plethora of bad acting as well.  Newbie actor Jonny Weston was certainly not hired for his acting skills.  He is the blandest protagonist I've seen on the big screen in quite some time.  Weston brings no personality to the character of Jay Moriarity whatsoever.  Leven Rambin, his co-star and romantic interest on screen, doesn't do much better.  She brings no romantic flare to the film at all.  The only principal cast member who gives a remotely enjoyable performance is Gerard Butler as Frosty.

The setting for Chasing Mavericks is the sea. It's all about the waves.  While we get plenty of time to gaze at the beautiful blue Pacific waters, we don't get enough surfing action on these seas, and this is the one thing that is truly done well in the movie.  Because the film is so bloated with other minutiae, we spend a lot of time watching other unnecessary developments unfold but not catching the waves.

I was honestly going to give Chasing Mavericks a 0.06% rating, a weak one albeit.  Because the surfing was well done and because the film is decent enough for a Saturday afternoon viewing, I was going to give it a pass.  I was willing to forgive most of the missteps throughout the film.  However, I can't forgive the ending.  I know Moriarity died at the age of 22 in real life, but this has to be incorporated into the film in a subtle way that doesn't take away from the exhilaration of surfing a massive El Niño wave.  You can’t go from conquering the Loch Ness monster straight to the grave.  That just doesn’t gel with the theme “Live Like Jay” that the film emphasizes.  Because the ending left a sour taste in my mouth, I have to give Chasing Mavericks a 0.09% rating.  Have some whiskey sours with this one.