Sometimes a movie is just plain nice. It’s not particularly groundbreaking or all that compelling. Nor is it poorly conceived or sloppily executed. It’s not earth-shattering or mind-numbing and it never tries to be something it is not. It is simply nice.
“Chasing Mavericks” is a nice movie. It is the story of real-life surfing legend Jay Moriarity (played with wide-eyed enthusiasm by Jonny Weston) and his Daniel-san/Mr. Miyagi-style relationship with elder surf-master Frosty Hesson (played by Gerard “Tonight we dine in hell!” Butler).
In the mid-1990s, Jay was your average 16-year-old Santa Cruz kid. He split his time between school, surfing, and propping up his single mother Kristy (Elisabeth Shue, in the midst of a mini career renaissance).
When Jay catches wind that his neighbor and surf-idol Frosty has discovered and routinely surfs massive, thought-to-be-mythical waves called mavericks, Jay begs Frosty to take him along with him.
Frosty reluctantly agrees, but only if Jay agrees to submit to a rigorous training program that will prepare him physically and mentally to take on the gi-normous waves.
The rest of the film plays out like pretty much every other movie of its ilk has since the dawn of celluloid. Adversity is overcome, life-lessons are learned and inner-demons are faced.
Jay even finds time to woo the girl next door (Leven Rambin) and encourage his best friend (Devin Crittenden) to say no to drugs.
In spite of being familiar, formulaic, and Jay’s relentless optimism bordering on parody, “Chasing Mavericks” does not get pulled under by these flaws and manages to keep its head above water thanks mostly to its ridiculously competent co-directors.
Michael Apted (whose long career includes “Gorillas in the Mist,” the Bond flick “The World is Not Enough” and the life-long project that is the “Up” series of documentaries) and Curtis Hanson (Oscar-winning director of “L.A. Confidential”) teamed up on this movie and help guide it through the treacherous waters of lame platitudes and tired clichés.
Where they truly excel, though, is in the surfing scenes. By taking the audience right into the teeth of these massive waves, Apted and Hanson wind up making Mother Nature the most compelling character in the film.
“Chasing Mavericks” is one of those easily digestible, quickly forgettable movies that neither offends nor inspires. In that way, it is an ideal family movie that projects admirable qualities like perseverance, trust, and dedication across the big screen without getting uncomfortably “real” for the kiddies.
Like I said before, this is a nice movie and although my socks remain firmly not-knocked-off, I’m glad we live in a world where nice movies are allowed to exist.
“Chasing Mavericks” is rated PG for thematic elements and some perilous action.