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Review: Chasing Mavericks

Score:B-

Director:Curtis Hanson, Michael Apted

Cast:Jonny Weston, Gerard Butler, Elisabeth Shue, Abigail Spencer, Leven Rambin

Running Time:115 Minutes

Rated:PG

Despite being as corny and straightforward as a movie can get, the
real-life surfing story Chasing Mavericks
succeeds from beginning to end. In fact, its adherence to conventional
storytelling essentially makes this a throwback to the cheesy, inspirational
sports movies of the '70s and '80s, like The
Karate Kid, Vision Quest, and,
one of my all-time favorites, Breaking
Away.

The cast is only as good as it needs to be. Newcomer Jonny Weston
sports a horrific blond perm as the noble Jay Moriarty, a kid who works hard,
stays out of trouble, and keeps his alcoholic mother (Elisabeth Shue) on track.
He's so relentlessly positive it's alarming.

After his neighbor Frosty (Gerard Butler) rescues him from drowning on
his surfboard, Jay takes up surfing. He regularly looks up to Frosty, despite his
sheer ineptitude as a parent. Jay becomes a good surfer but becomes completely
enamored with the rush of narrowly escaping death on Mavericks, rare waves that
can get as high as 30 feet. He eventually convinces Frosty to train him. But
Jay gets more than he bargained for when Frosty keeps the focus on his mental
and emotional preparation.

The training montages are pretty standard, and Jay fails, then meets,
every challenge thrown his way, all while having to deal with bullies, his best
friend's drug habit, his mom's depression, and his unrequited love for his
childhood pal Kim. Played by Levin Rambin, she's just as beautiful but 10 times
the actress Blake Lively is. Though her big moment is thoroughly unconvincing,
she's right in line with the totally adequate cast.

Chasing Mavericks continues
to chase its clichés, fully invested in every crest and fall. It's not going to
win any awards"”though its cinematography impresses"”but it's entertaining and
free of CGI or 3-D or any ambitions beyond telling its story. It's not only
beautiful to watch but also occasionally inspirational. All that makes Chasing Mavericks the movie you need to
catch.

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About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.

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