'Chasing Mavericks' catches legendary surfer's training days
A movie review of "Chasing Mavericks," a film that focuses on the training of a teen surfer (Jonny Weston) in Santa Cruz. Gerard Butler plays his mentor.
San Francisco Chronicle
'Chasing Mavericks,' with Jonny Weston, Gerard Butler. Directed by Curtis Hanson and Michael Apted, from a screenplay by Kario Salem. Rated PG for thematic elements and some perilous action. 111 minutes. Several theaters.
"Chasing Mavericks" breaks through the clichés associated with surfer movies — the carefree beach-party fantasies, the fake mysticism — and offers a portrait that has a lot more integrity. In this telling, the really serious surfers, the big-wave guys, are anything but happy-go-lucky airheads. They are athletes, who study currents and wave patterns and train their minds as well as their bodies, knowing that they're doing something that has a good chance of killing them.
So at the very least, audiences will come away from "Chasing Mavericks" with a deeper understanding of surfing and an appreciation for surfers. Love has a way of demanding respect, and the more irrational and dangerous the love is, the more interesting.
Yet for all that, and despite the collaboration of two estimable directors — Michael Apted (the "Up" series) and Curtis Hanson ("L.A. Confidential") — "Chasing Mavericks" moves as fast as a runner in waist-high water and wears out its welcome.
The film is the true story of Jay Moriarity, a teenager from Santa Cruz, who became famous overnight for surviving one of the worst wipeouts in history. While surfing a wave the size of an apartment building, he fell straight down and was held underwater by the current. Moriarity went on to have a legendary surfing career.
"Chasing Mavericks" tells of Moriarity's discovery of surfing as a child and his training, as a teen, to surf the maverick waves in Santa Cruz.
The training is systematic and guided by an older surfer, Frosty (Gerard Butler), with whom he forms a father-son bond. In one way, the training is too rigorous: The story gets locked in the training phase and stays there until the viewer is more tired than Moriarity.
Weston has a lovable, guileless quality reminiscent of the real Moriarity, who is shown at the end of the picture, and the surfing scenes are well-shot and interesting until they cease to be interesting. There is a pretty good 90- minute movie trapped inside this 111-minute extravaganza. As it stands, this one is mainly for surfing aficionados.