Chasing Mavericks opens in the year 1987. In an act of kindness, Jay Moriarty falls into the ocean trying to save his friend’s dog and is miraculously saved by a surfer named Frosty. Turns out this guy lives across the street from Jay. He is in awe of Frosty and sets forth to become a surfer just like Frosty. Fast forward seven years to 1994. Jay has become a pretty good surfer and is still quite fascinated with Frosty’s skills. One night, Jay sneaks a ride on top of Frosty’s van, not knowing what he would see would become a driving force in his life. He sees Frosty and his friends surf the mythical wave called a maverick.
I have to admit that I was curious about this film. The trailers looked good and it seemed to have a pretty good cast. Gerard Butler plays the surfing mentor, Frosty, and Jonny Weston plays the main character, Jay. Elisabeth Shue plays Jay’s alcoholic mother. The Hunger Games’ Leven Rambin plays Jay’s love interest, Kim, and Abigail Spencer plays Frosty’s patient, loving wife, Brenda. Even with a decent cast, the downfall of Chasing Mavericks is the writing.
The film falls somewhere between an Afterschool Special and a Lifetime Movie of the Week. It is full of those life lessons and one-line iconic quotes (or at least tries to be iconic). They come out of Frosty’s mouth regularly and quickly become tiresome. The film does not flow right. It focuses too much on getting these lines into the film, breaking up any realism it might have had. No one regularly has conversations that sound like that, ever. The developing relationship between Jay and Kim suffers from the same horrendous writing. At the point where their relationship hits its peak, a line so ridiculous comes out of Kim’s mouth that I immediately turned to my friend with a frown on my face mixed with a look of “this movie is ridiculous.” No one ever uttered a line so unbelievable, unless it was in a Nicholas Sparks movie.
There are other moments when the acting is questionable. There are only so many times that an actor can convincingly display a look of shock and anxiety. As a director, he or she should not be coming back to that same numerous times. It does not look good, and I would not entirely fault it on the actor. Jonny Weston does a decent job, and most of the weight is on him for the film. Unfortunately, I kept staring at his face wondering if his face was really that color, he had too much makeup on, or got a really bad spray tan. Once again, not his fault, but it is distracting.
Do not even get me started on the “bad guys.” These are characters that are not necessary for the film and should have been written out entirely.
The one saving grace of Chasing Mavericks is the surfing scenes. Every single one is excellent. They have great camera work that cover a multitude of angles for each sequence. As the film progresses to the maverick waves, the skill to get such great shots of these waves and the surfers had to have been immense. This is not the type of scene where you can do multiple takes. Although I could detect some CGI with the surfers and the waves, I would have to say that the majority of them are real. The film also incorporates a couple of still shots of the real Jay Moriarty in the maverick wave scene. A few of the surfing shots are paired with great songs from the late 1980s and the 1990s.
Given that Chasing Mavericks is supposed to be based on the life of the real Jay Moriarty, I feel like the film did not do the real man any justice. I became impressed with Jay Moriarty through the real life biography that ends the film. If the writers had just stuck with a great story and not tried to stuff a bunch of life lessons and bad lines down our throats, the film could have been good, possibly great. Unfortunately, Chasing Mavericks ends up as a film that should have ended up on TV rather than in your local theatre.
I give Chasing Mavericks 2 “Mavericks” out of 5.
by Sarah Ksiazek