Movie review in the Friday, Oct. 26 Oregonian....
It's frustrating that co-directors as solid as Curtis Hanson ("L.A. Confidential") and Michael Apted (who took over after Hanson took ill) can't quite crack the surfing movie "Chasing Mavericks."
The surfing scenes are gorgeous and overwhelming. But the rest of the film -- a biopic about the late big-wave surf legend Jay Moriarity -- never quite manages to feel like more than a surface-scraping, by-the-numbers sports flick.
Part of the problem is that newcomer Jonny Weston plays the movie version of the much-loved Moriarity as a eager, driven, nearly blameless protagonist, and it just isn't all that dramatically interesting. Movie-Moriarity's biggest challenge is that sports-movie staple, Learning to Face Your Fear, and his relationship with his mentor Frosty (Gerard Butler) -- who teaches him to surf the terrifyingly huge waves of Mavericks in northern California -- is almost entirely supportive and goal-oriented. (It's basically "The Karate Kid" with longboards.) Even Jay's love interest (Leven Rambin) seems more or less predestined, and Frosty's awesome wife (Abigail Spencer) is written mostly as a series of noble speeches and supportive nods.
So instead the filmmakers try to inject drama into these healthy core relationships from the outside, and each source of that outside drama -- including bullies, wavering friends, flaky moms, absent dads and sudden medical emergencies -- is depicted (and resolved) in a one-note fashion that to my thinking does a slight disservice to the people who lived this drama for real.
That said, when the colossal waves of Mavericks take center stage, you instantly understand what attracted the filmmakers. Cinematographer Bill Pope turns those waves into beautiful movie monsters, and there's real suspense toward the end in watching them threaten to engulf the tiny specks attempting to glide along their surface.
(105 min., rated PG) Grade: C-plus
'Chasing Mavericks' (The Oregonian, Friday, Oct. 26, 2012)