review: chasing mavericks

By Chris Robinson on 11/16/2012

Some stories get made into movies again and again, no matter how many times they’ve been done before (think Superman, Batman, or that movie where the house keeps trying to kill its inhabitants).  But sometimes equally compelling – and much more original – tales spend years in obscurity before finally getting their chance to shine on the silver screen.  When they come out, we wonder what took so long.

For me, Ben Affleck’s recent blockbuster Argo was one of those films. So is Chasing Mavericks. (Both are based on true stories).

Synopsis – When young Jay Moriarty discovers that the mythic Mavericks surf break, one of the biggest waves on Earth, exists just miles from his Santa Cruz home, he enlists the help of local legend Frosty Hesson to train him to survive it. Trailer

Details: starring Gerard Butler, Jonny Weston, Leven Rambin, Elisabeth Shue

Rating/Runtime: PG/116 min.

Dingo Dictum: C+


Directed by Michael Apted (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader) and Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential), Mavericks is the coming of age story of a child prodigy harboring a single, elusive goal: to surf the biggest wave in the world.  Set in Santa Cruz, a beautiful Northern California surf town, the film follows surf legend Jay Moriarty from childhood into his 16th year.

Innocent and bright-eyed Jay (played by Jonny Weston) is captivated by the power of the ocean, and spends most of his time in it: swimming, surfing, and paddle-boarding. Local waters keep him occupied until he learns that mythical surf spot Mavericks – miles up the coast off rugged Half-Moon Bay – is more than just a legend.  A man possessed, Jay recruits Frosty Hesson (Gerard Butler), a hard-bitten local surfing iron-man with a troubled past, to train him to ride the watery monster (Mavericks’ storm break, we are told, can top 50 feet).  Along the way, Jay must prove his mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual maturity, while navigating the perils of high school (drugs, girls) and a rocky home life.

Up-and-comers Weston and Leven Rambin (Jay’s love interest) are endearing and believable as rising surfing star and sunny beach babe, and Butler acquits himself with the same lovable gruffness and warrior’s passion that made him a star in 300. The story is frequently touching and the climactic final scenes are incredible – as is the stunning live action surfing footage that dominates the film. But Mavericks is hampered by a debilitating script, most wince-worthy at the outset, while we are still getting to know the characters.  And despite the compelling storyline, the movie at times suffers from a puzzling lack of energy.

Sweet and well-intentioned, this family-friendly film falls just short in its attempt to really connect.  Δ


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