Mark Reviews Movies


2 Ĺ Stars (out of 4)

Director: John Stockwell

Cast: Kate Bosworth, Michelle Rodriguez, Matthew Davis, Sanoe Lake, Mika Boorem

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for sexual content, teen partying, language and a fight)

Running Time: 1:44

Release Date: 8/16/02

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Review by Mark Dujsik

Surfers are always looking for that next, big wave. The surfers in Blue Crush watch some of the most spectacular waves subtly rise out of the ocean, swell to form a snow white crest, gracefully barrel in on themselves, and ultimately crash down to meet the sea from whence they came creating a violent current and undercurrent that start the water spinning in any which direction. If no one has caught the wave, there isnít an appreciation for the shear beauty of such an overwhelming natural force but a disappointment for the "waste of a wave." No waves are wasted in this movie. Filmed on the Hawaiian island of Oahu with actual people riding real waves with, as far as I can tell, little to no digital assistance, the surfing sequences pack a visceral punch. Then thereís the story, which follows the formula of the sports underdog beyond predictability into the realm of unintentional parody.

Anne Marie (Kate Bosworth) was a juvenile champion surfboarder. She was so good that the judges refused to let her compete with the boys. All of that is gone now. After a near-fatal encounter with a piece of reef and the departure of her mother, Anne Marie now works as a hotel maid with her two best friends Eden (Michelle Rodriguez) and Lena (Sanoe Lake) and raises her bright but always-partying younger sister Penny (Mika Boorem). The chance has come for Anne Marie to regain her past glory by taking part in the upcoming pipeline competition. The event brings together all outlets of the surfing media, and if you catch one good wave, you could well be situated for life. The downside is that waves are notoriously dangerousósometimes deadly. Haunted by her past failure, her family history, her class standing, the fact that she is a woman participating in a "manís sport," and a string of recent conflicts, Anne Marie begins to slip in her training and skill. Can she get it together in time for the contest?

The script by Lizzy Weiss and director John Stockwell (based on a magazine article by Susan Orlean, which, along with The Fast and the Furious, proves that good scripts are not elicited from sports items) treads territory already dug into the ground by so many other movies. We know practically everything that will happen during the course of the movie from the beginning. A series of montages will show Anne Marie training and, to help build suspense, failing. Flashbacks to the heroineís accident will encumber her at the worst possible time. At least one of her friends will be jealous of her capabilities and give a self-deprecating speech that will give the heroine a much-needed boost of ego. The friends will bond in quirky situations that prove the possible dangers of allowing actors to improvise. Since the movie also carries a female empowerment theme, the women will refuse to be belittled by the men, all while wearing the skimpiest of bikinis. And of course a man (in this situation a star quarterback played by Matthew Davis) will play love interest and obstacle. Here the script shows its only possible variable. Will the boyfriend be the lying, deceiving cad of the female empowerment picture or the sincere moral support of the underdog movie? Both possibilities would result in giving Anne Marie motivation to do her best, so itís not much of a variable.

The story is an excuse for some great surfing footage, and on that level, the movie delivers. Stockwell captures the action from every possible angle. The camera holds from afar to give us a sense of the size of some of these waves, goes inside the wave to see the water churning and the board skimming the surface, and shows the boardís perspective. A couple of impressive helicopter shots (perhaps containing the only obvious digital tinkering) allow us to understand the length of these waves, and an underwater camera captures the challenges of surfacing after a wipeout. The editing of these sequences is kinetic, which does occasionally result in losing a feeling of fluidity but is still interesting to watch. Much of the surfing has to have been done by the actors, considering that we can see their faces, and thatís an impressive accomplishment to see.

Even these sequences arenít safe from the formulaic script, and by the big, climactic contest, the entire crowd of onlookers (including a dreadfully monotonous sports announcer (I hope itís not his actual job)) begin to cheer "Go! Go! Go!" Admittedly though, intelligent writing and realistic human activity cannot be expected from something so derivative, and on a certain base level, Blue Crush delivers what it promises, just not well enough to recommend it.

Copyright © 2002 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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