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Originally published October 16, 2008 at 2:00 PM | Page modified October 16, 2008 at 2:07 PM


Movie Review

"Morning Light": An uninspired mix of reality TV, boating manual

"Morning Light," co-produced by Roy E. Disney and directed by Mark Monroe and Paul Crowder, is a curiously dull documentary concerning a 2006 race between schooners from California to Hawaii.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 1.5 stars

"Morning Light," a documentary directed by Mark Monroe and Paul Crowder. 95 minutes. Rated PG for some language. Several theaters.

"Morning Light" fails to bridge the divide between people who love boats and people who don't.

As a nonsportsman who has, nevertheless, enjoyed a lot of outdoor sports documentaries by Warren Miller ("Beyond the Edge"), Bruce Brown ("The Endless Summer") and his son Dana Brown ("Step Into Liquid"), among others, I get a kick out of the novel ways good filmmakers turn a niche-interest activity into something of universal appeal.

That's not the case with "Morning Light," co-produced by Roy E. Disney (nephew of Walt Disney) and directed by Mark Monroe and Paul Crowder, who have previously collaborated on nonfiction films ("Amazing Journey: The Story of the Who").

"Morning Light" concerns the 2006 Transpacific Yacht Race, an annual competition between sailing sloops crossing the Pacific Ocean from California to Hawaii. The film observes a team sailing the Morning Light — a group of young men and women who undergo intensive training for a half-year and then race against sailors far more experienced than themselves.

That should be interesting, all right, but "Morning Light" is too much like a cross between MTV's "The Real World" and an arcane record of racing's technical complexities.

The first half focuses on the rivalries between 20 people vying for 15 slots on the team, with all the usual melodrama of a reality television show. It makes one wonder what "Morning Light" is doing on a movie screen.

The rest of the film is dominated by the minutiae of the race. If you don't speak the jargon of sailing and racing, most of the conversations between teammates mean very little. Impenetrable editing reduces the action to a meaningless blur.

Instead of bringing the audience in, "Morning Light" makes one feel very passive, like zoning out in your bathrobe in front of an ESPN special.

Tom Keogh:

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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