Curtis Hanson and Michael Apted’s Chasing Mavericks is an overly-sentimental and clichéd biographical surfing film that attempts to ride Gerard Butler’s celebrity wave, but finds itself crashing against the rocks due to its lifelessness and bad writing.
Jay Moriarty (played by Jonny Weston in the film) was a Californian surfer who gained notoriety in 1994 when he attempted to ride the infamous waves known as Mavericks at the age of 16. In Chasing Mavericks we follow Moriarty from when he first became interested in surfing at 9-years-old, until the big moment 7 years later, which is made possible due to the intense training from his mentor and friend, Frosty Hesson (Gerard Butler).
I’m sure, in real life, Jay Moriarty had a pretty interesting life, but this film doesn’t reach the same peaks. The script is packed full of trivial (though intended to be inspirational) talk and is anything but subtle; when Moriarty’s friend tells him his dream girl is too old for him, and Frosty dictates that he won’t train Moriarty to ride big waves, the film is blatantly telling us what is going to happen. Unfortunately those big moments are building far in the distance and there’s nothing we can do but wait for them to reach the shore.
If you have no interest in the mechanics of surfing, then you may find yourself, like I did, completely bored until the last 30 minutes – which is admittedly thrilling. Many of the scenes take place, expectedly, in the sea, but the writing is as dead as the water that Moriarty and Frosty often find themselves in. The two of them seem to be unable to have a normal conversation and, even though I agree with the sentiments of being passionate about hobbies and goals, they take it to another level. Chasing Mavericks breaks right through the barriers of seriousness into completely cringe-worthy cheesiness.
The writers and directors did seem to realise that you can’t make a film consisting entirely of conversations while treading water, so they tried to keep things fresh with some extra story-lines. However, this filler content is comprised of a clique rivalry and a childhood sweetheart love story that feel like they have been pulled straight from a high school drama on the Disney Channel.
One thing the producers didn’t seem to realise was the importance of casting. Not including Gerard Butler, who acted comfortably, the cast didn’t seem experienced enough to make anything out of the badly-written script, and many of the actors, even the main star Weston, found themselves being overly-dramatic. As a whole, there is a strong sense that the film is taking itself a little bit too seriously.
The good moments, rare as they are, all seem to happen near the end of the film. There are some big character developments, and with the huge finale you will find yourself caring (even if just a little) for characters that just weren’t interesting for the first hour-and-a-half. But this great gasp for air at the end doesn’t save Chasing Mavericks from its inevitable fate.
by Tom Woodcock