Chasing Mavericks Directed by: Michael Apted, Curtis Hanson Cast: Jonny Weston, Gerard Butler, Elisabeth Shue, Leven Rambin Running Time: 2 hrs Rating: PG Release Date: October 26, 2012
PLOT: Based on a true story. Jay (Weston) discovers that Mavericks, one of the biggest waves on Earth, does exist. He gets his neighbor and surf legend Frosty (Butler) to train him to ride the dangerous surf.
WHO'S IT FOR? Anyone who wants to appreciate surfing a little bit more.
It's always odd walking away from an average film, realizing there are plenty of flaws, and still kind of liking it. That's the case with Chasing Mavericks. It's a story about surfing. It's a story about working hard toward a difficult task. It's a story about a 15-year-old kid with a big smile.
The smile I'm referring to belongs to Jonny Weston. After the film, I was shocked to find out this isn't his first acting gig. I would have guessed he's a surfer they made into an actor. While that may sound like an insult, that's what this film needed. It needed a surfer to try and give us a glimpse into this obsession with a big wave. That's the driving force of this film. Weston smiles, a lot, and it's definitely engaging. His blond afro/perm made me think of Christopher Atkins from Blue Lagoon a little too much. Weston's character Jay is incredibly polite, always saying "Yes, Sir." That politeness goes a long way to covering up what seems like suspect, first-time acting. It's hard not to root for Jay and his mission.
Jay enlists the help of Frosty, and Butler does do a nice job of transforming himself into a life-long surfer. It's a welcome change for a long list of characters I haven't enjoyed from Butler's resume. The two make a decent team when training, though there are so many times when they lay it on pretty thick. Life is about surfing. Surfing is about life. Though, one of Jay's tasks is to hold his breath for four minutes, and that seems pretty particular to surfing in conditions that seem unimaginably unless you are Bodhi from Point Break.
The rest of the film feels way too easy. Laughs comes from things like Jay being hungry at a dinner table. Plus, there are the other characters in this story. Jay has a bully named Sonny (Taylor Handley) who seems created at the William Zabka Evil '80s School of Acting. Shue plays Jay's kind of drunk mom, who kind of gets in the way, but then was supposedly watching from afar a long. It's weak at best. Even the potential romance between childhood sweethearts with Jay and Kim (Leven Rambin) seems to get in the way of this story. I don't even want to talk about the extremely painful twist out of nowhere this story just throws at you. Yes, I believe it happened in real life, but that doesn't mean it gels in this film.
Once the focus fully is on the Mavericks at the end, there is excitement even though it feels like Chasing Mavericks keeps getting in its own way. For every breath-taking wave they show, there are plenty of cut-aways so we know it is multiple takes. For every hope we have for Jay and the wave, there is suddenly tourist surfers everywhere getting in the way.
Ultimately, it didn't feel like it was our goal for Jay to surf the Mavericks. It was his goal. Plus, with the end comes knowledge that shows there are serious consequences for chasing some dreams. Somehow Chasing Mavericks fails to bring us fully in to this story, even though I like the kid's smile.
FINAL SCORE: 5/10