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MOVIE REVIEW: "Chasing Mavericks"

Nothing to wave about


Another film based around the subject of mere mortals engaged in an epic battle against an enormous, cold, and uncaring force of nature, "Chasing Mavericks" chronicles the life of legendary surfer Jay Moriarty. What results is basically "The Karate Kid," with surfing instead of martial arts - complete with a role for Elisabeth Shue (though she's now forced into the thankless, one-note role of an alcoholic mother who requires more care than she provides). Directors Curtis Hanson and Michael Apted focus on the relationship between the teenaged Moriarty (played with appropriately wide-eyed naivete by Jonny Weston) and the gruff, but good-hearted, veteran surfer Frosty Hesson (Gerard Butler).

Frosty reluctantly agrees to act as mentor and train Moriarty after the boy becomes obsessed with learning to surf "The Mavericks," a dangerous section of ocean just off the coast of Northern California that, due to some uniquely-shaped underwater rock formations, is capable of producing gargantuan waves during the winter months.

A fairly by-the-numbers coming-of-age flick, the story progresses more or less exactly how you'd expect, as Jay must mature and find the discipline within in order to conquer his fears and achieve the greatness he desires, while simultaneously forming a heartwarming surrogate father/son bond with Frosty. There's a subplot about Frosty's reluctance to be a father to his own children, but with the minor role all the female characters play in the film, it doesn't take much to predict what will force Frosty to step up and act like a father.

The film's surfing sequences are exciting and beautifully filmed, but there just aren't enough of them. There's a lot of time devoted to paddle boating and Jay's struggle to be able to hold his breath for four minutes. What few surfing scenes there are can't balance the fact that everything that takes place on dry land is painfully dull, making for a film that, while ostensibly about the quest to find a moment that makes you feel truly alive, is itself oddly lifeless.