Chasing Mavericks has plenty of eye candy for the surfing set

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Starring Gerard Butler and Elisabeth Shue. Rated G. Now playing

All surfing movies have one preoccupation: from Gidget to Endless Summer, everybody wants to ride the big wave. Chasing Mavericks is no different. Based on the life of teen surfing legend Jay Moriarity, the real stars here are monster waves known as mavericks.

Codirected by Curtis Hanson and Michael Apted—who completed the last few weeks of shooting after Hanson had to drop out for health reasons—Chasing Mavericks has a lot of spectacular footage to offer the surfing buff. For the rest of us, it may help to think of this movie as a kind of Karate Kid Goes to the Beach.

Much of this story revolves around a veteran surfer (Gerard Butler) training the eager young Jay (Jonny Weston) to handle the most dangerous waves in California. Although you end up learning a lot about what it takes to be a champion surfer, that’s only part of the story. This is really about Jay’s journey to manhood. Along the way, he has to cope with his father’s desertion, a dysfunctional mother (Elisabeth Shue), and an emotionally conflicted girlfriend (Leven Rambin).

Since we’ve seen many variations on this theme, it’s not especially difficult to predict what happens. On the other hand, it’s by no means unpleasant to watch events unfold.

The performances themselves, however, are a mixed blessing. Although Weston is competent enough, his Jay is as memorable as a slice of white bread. In fact, most of the acting here don’t add up to much more than serviceable.

The one notable exception is Butler as a gruff surfer who becomes Jay’s surrogate father. Butler has done a lot of marginal work over the past few years, but it feels like he’s got something to prove here. The best part of Chasing Mavericks is watching him rise to the occasion.


Watch the trailer for Chasing Mavericks.

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Paisley
Mr. Butler's work over the past few years is not marginal. One example is his role as Sam Childers in Machine Gun Preacher, which fell victim to negligence on the part of Relativity Media when it came to promoting the film (RM did nothing to promote it). Another is his spot-on portrayal of Tullus Aufidius in Ralph Fiennes' critically-acclaimed film version of William Shakespeare's "Coriolanus." Two fine films and two impressive performances by Mr. Butler that sadly got ignored by the industry because they weren't automatic "blockbusters."
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Rating: +4
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