Now Playing: Surfing Drama Stays Afloat

Few press screenings start with attached trailers. Usually, unless I actively search out trailers, TV spots are the only chance that many films get to wow me prior to their screenings. Such was the case with ‘Chasing Mavericks’. Sadly, the television ads make it out to be an amateurish, low-budget, predictable after-school special. I’m not saying that ‘Chasing Mavericks’ is a perfect movie, but it’s worlds better than the commercials make it out to be.

Yes, I’m from Southern California. No, I’ve never surfed. Knowing little about the sport, I’d never heard of Jay Moriarity, much less his incredible story. In 1994, the 15-year-old Moriarity set out to do something that most surfers wouldn’t dare attempt at any age – surf monster waves at the legendary “Mavericks” location in Northern California. For those who know the tale of this true-life surfer and the El Niño waves that he wanted to conquer, I imagine you’ll not only enjoy seeing his story portrayed on the big screen, but you’ll love the way that this awe-inspiring sport is filmed.

Curtis Hanson directed the majority of ‘Chasing Mavericks’, but was absent for the last three weeks of the shoot due to health issues, at which point Michael Apted stepped in. If you hadn’t been told, you’d never know. The film plays out with great consistency and contains some of the very best surfing footage I’ve ever seen. Instead of the typical “in the curl” footage, Hanson and Apted shoot a much more interesting style of cinematography that conveys the grandeur and immense power of the ocean. On various occasions, it left my jaw agape.

The story of Moriarity is a good one, perfect for an inspirational tale. What doesn’t work so well is the formulaic manufactured drama. Like I said, I knew nothing about Moriarity’s story before ‘Chasing Mavericks’, but I can surely tell you what’s fictional and what’s not. Relative newcomer Jonny Weston does a decent job as Moriarity (although he’s obviously not 15-years-old), but Gerard Butler actually surprised me with his performance here. As the Mr. Miyagi of this underdog story, Butler does a fine job – including a few scenes that show him actually surfing.

Even though the final two minutes of ‘Chasing Mavericks’ should never have been included in this story, I still recommend the movie. It has flaws, but I have to admit that I enjoyed it.

Rating: ★★★½☆

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