Reviewed by Kevin Finnerty
“I want to ride that wave,” says Jay Moriarity (Jonny Weston). “That wave is a myth and the four of us that surf there want to keep it that way,” replies Frosty Hesson (Gerard Butler), a local legend of surfing in Santa Cruz, in the dramatic film, Chasing Mavericks.
All of his life Jay has been obsessed with the sea and powerful waves, so much so one day he ends up almost drowning while saving his friend Kim’s puppy from a huge wave only to be saved by Frosty. Seven years later when 15 year old Jay sneaks a ride aboard Frosty’s van and discovers the mythic Mavericks surf break, one of the biggest waves in the world, he becomes determined to learn how to surf the colossal waves. Although resistant at first, Frosty – added by the insight of his lovely wife Brenda (Abigail Spencer) – realizes Jay is going to try to ride that killer wave with or without his help. Finding himself worrying about the kid and not wanting anything tragic to happen to him, Frosty takes Jay under his wing and decides to train him to get him ready to surf the Maverick waves in 12 weeks.
Facing grueling training sessions, ridicule from some of his classmates, and constantly missing opportunities to spend time with his dream girl, Kim (Leven Rambin), who seems to only have eyes for other guys, Jay becomes more determined than ever to learn how to ride the Mavericks surf break and make his surrogate father Frosty proud of him.
Based on a true story, Chasing Mavericks is a dramatic, sports family film that unfortunately comes up short of inspiring or entertaining a moviegoing audience. The film has incredible footage of some breathtaking, life-risking surfing with colossal waves, but that’s the only impressive thing about it.
Unfortunately, the acting in the film comes across forced and the characters are one-dimensional with no real depth or personality. There’s Jay, the good-natured well-meaning young boy whose dream of being king of the waves is nothing more than a desperate effort to be great at something while building a father-son relationship with his mentor, Frosty. There’s Brenda, the dedicated, loving wife to Frosty who seems to know what’s really on everyone’s mind and what’s right for everyone around her except herself. There’s Kim, Jay’s friend and dream girl who constantly keeps Jay in the friendship zone even though she keeps inviting him to beach parties and searches for him in a crowd of teenagers at school. It seems she doesn’t realize she’s already crazy about him – and not just as a friend.
The real problem with the film and its script is its surface and simple development of the story and characters. It never dares to delve deeper into who Jay, Frosty, Kim and the rest of these cardboard characters are. Chasing Mavericks, in the final analysis, is nothing more than a ‘Hallmark channel movie of the week’ which belongs there and not on up on the big screen.
Chasing Mavericks hits theaters on October 26, 2012 and is rated PG for thematic elements and some perilous action.