Title: Chasing Mavericks
Director: Michael Apted & Curtis Hanson
Chasing Mavericks is officially labeled a sports-drama. But in reality, it’s The Karate Kid with surfing; or, just an elongated episode of Saved by the Bell.
Gerard Butler is the “Mr. Miyagi” in this telling that takes place in the mid-90s out in Santa Cruz, California. His “Danielson” is Jonny Weston, who plays surfer Jay Moriarity. Butler, known as Frosty, takes Jay under his wing, and prepares him to surf the elusive “maverick” wave. Many people believe these monstrous waves do not exist, as the story compares them to the Lochness Monster. But as 16 year-old Jay finds out after following Frosty around, they are as real as the bacon fried ice-cream.
So the training commences, as the talented young and insanely positive surfer adheres to Frosty’s strict guidelines in preparation to survive this uber-risky ride.
While a good portion of the flick is focusing on Frosty and Jay’s relationship in and out of the water, a few subplots are touched upon via Elizabeth Shue playing Jay’s alcoholic mother, and Abigail Spencer, playing Frosty’s wife. Of the two, Spencer and Butler are far more interesting than Shue’s character. That said, they’re both never fully flushed out and are inserted just to break up the monotony of the basic training sequences in the coastal waters. And then there’s the loose high school love interest on display via Leven Rambin’s “Kim;” and the stereotypical bully angle with an older fellow surfer in Sonny (Taylor Handley). But again, they’re just glossed over and could have easily been edited out for more substantial “life” conversations between the two leads. Frosty’s background could have been explored further, too.
And even though the dialogue is very cookie-cutter like, every now and then a resonating message is projected out. Hence, Saved by the Bell likeness.
That’s pretty much covers the spectrum of what is occurring in this mild sports/bio pic. On the technical side, the capturing of all the surfing action is cool to watch if one is unfamiliar with the sport. Massive waves crashing on the rocks and wiping out surfers does a decent job in showcasing the danger of riding the waves. Last year’s Soul Surfer may have set the standard for cinematically capturing surfing – and had a more compelling story – but this holds up well enough to present a nice leisurely watch, with a notable message/theme. Plus, if you grew up in the ‘90s, the alternative-rock soundtrack provides a smidgen of nostalgia.
Overall, Chasing Mavericks maneuvers a bit choppy on the mechanical side, but the engaged performances by Butler and Weston, along with timely inspiring dialogue, can smooth out the ride.