Chasing Mavericks is a biopic of surfer Jay Moriarty, following his teenage years when he went from keen amateur so surfing some of the biggest waves in the world. Jay (Jonny Weston) is a little bit of a misfits and often pushed around by the other kids. However he loves to surf and discovers that just up the coast from his Californian home are some truly monster waves.
He decides that he wants to ride them and so goes to big wave veteran ‘Frosty’ (Gerard Butler). Despite being rather gruff and hesitant, Frosty eventually agrees to teach the young man everything he knows, starting Jay off on a course that initially seems to have little to do with riding waves. However it slowly teaches Jay the skills and understanding of the ocean he needs. It also see the father-less boy forging a close bond with Frosty, which becomes as important to the older man as it is to the teen.
The tale of Jay Moriarty is one that almost seems designed for the. However Chasing Mavericks is more interested in turning things soft and sappy than really going deep into the tale and illuminating why someone who lived such a short life has proved inspiring to so many. As it goes along it gets increasingly clichéd and mushy, which might have been okay if the characters were more interesting. While Jonny Weston is a likeable screen presence, Jay never seems that well rounded in the script, while Gerard Butler’s Frosty is just bland and a little annoying. The result is that for much of the middle of the movie is a little boring.
Much of this section is about surfing, but rather than exploring what it is about the waves that makes some people so devoted to them, it spends a lot of time telling us things that aren’t that interesting to non-surfers. Thankfully when it comes to the actual surfing the movie comes to life, with some incredible shots and far more excitement than the rest of the movie combined. As the special features attest, a huge amount of effort went into filming the surfing action, so much so that six cameras were lost to the sea during the shoot. Indeed I half get the impression that everyone involved spent so much time planning and executing the surfing footage that they forgot the rest of the movie needed to be interesting too.
The ending is also fairly effective, although emotionally manipulative and leaves the lingering sense that if they’d told the true story better, it would have had a lot more power.
Perhaps unexpectedly the special features are actually pretty good. As mentioned, there’s a look at the filming of the surf scenes, both showing how they got the raw footage and the special effects needed to put Weston and Butler on 40-foot waves. There’s also a look at the real Jay, which suggest that in real-life he was more interesting and inspiring than the film suggests.
Overall Verdict: The surf footage is great, but a sappy by-the-number script turns a great true story into a cliché-ridden and surprisingly dull Hollywood biopic.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac