Rashid Irani's review: Chasing Mavericks

Chasing Mavericks
Direction: Curtis Hanson and Michael Apted
Actors: Gerard Butler, Jonny Weston
Rating: **1/2

He was a surfing phenomenon. Barely 16-years-old when he successfully rode the giant waves dubbed Mavericks break along California's northern coast, Jay Moriarty drowned in a free-diving accident in the Maldives a day before his 23rd birthday in 2001.

An inspirational biopic, Chasing Mavericks chronicles the life of the young surfer intent on pushing the limits of the sport.  The weight of a 30-plus foot wall of water smashing down almost vertically not only posed a physical challenge but required metaphysical discipline a well.

Fortuitously, the wannabe wave warrior (newcomer Weston, suitably athletic) finds a larger-than-life guru (Butler, gruff as ever) who trains him to tackle the cascading swells of the ocean.

Lucklessly, though, the screenplay treads much familiar territory.  The mentor and his pupil demonstrate real passion for the boards but the subsidiary characters including the surfer's longtime love interest (Leven Rambin) aren't engaging enough.

Involved in a kind of existential battle with Mother Nature, our natural-born hero also has to contend with his absentee father and an alcoholic mother (Oscar winner Elizabeth Shue, reduced to a cameo role).

Worse, the youngster has to write lengthy essays which will supposedly help him develop a true reverence for the sea. Ha-ha!

Co-directors Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential) and Michael Apted (The World Is Not Enough) who took over after the former fell gravely ill, struggle to shape the material into some sort of narrative coherence.

On the other hand, those mountainous waves are captured, courtesy cinematographer Bill Pope, with a panache which is often breathtaking.  The visuals are complemented by the thunderous soundtrack.

Plunge in, then, if only for the spectacular surfing sequences.


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