Chasing Mavericks review

Curtis Hanson and Michael Apted bring the true life story, Chasing Mavericks, to the screen. Here's what Ron thought...

Jay Moriarity is a troubled kid who has always been obsessed with the ocean. He even takes the cute girl down the street to the beach to count waves and hang out together. After an accident sends young Jay tumbling into the Pacific Ocean, he finds himself drowning until a mysterious surfer named Frosty Hesson (Gerard Butler) scoops him out of the ocean and saves his life. Before long, Jay has taped himself a surfboard together and spends his free time at the beach, catching waves in beautiful 1987.

Fast forward seven years later, and Jay (Jonny Weston) is still a troubled kid obsessed with surfing and the lovely Kim (Leven Rambin), but he’s moved onto bigger and better waves. Still, there’s one wave that Jay would do anything to ride, and that’s Mavericks. After sneaking onto Frosty’s van and observing him and his friends riding the fabled Mavericks, he immediately wants in. However, you just don’t go from the kiddie pool to the deep end, and you don’t just go from your average swell to Mavericks overnight.

Cue the training montage! Cue the bonding! Cue the mid-90s alternative, rock, and punk!

Chasing Mavericks covers every possible cliché from every possible teen movie ever made. Jay has a runaway father and a depressed, possibly drunk mother. Frosty is a good guy but since he didn’t have parents growing up, he doesn’t know how to be a father. There’s Jay’s life-long love affair with Kim, the girl slightly above his social status who also happens to be way too gorgeous for him and always flirting with other guys. He’s got a best friend with a drug problem, neighborhood bullies, he works in a pizza place, and he may as well be the centerpiece of every possible 80s teen movie. The film even manages to include multiple voice-overs, just in case the story from Kario Salem itself wasn’t trite enough.

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Trite though the story may seem, it is based on true events. There was a real-life high school student named Jay Moriarity who surfed Mavericks with the help of his mentor Frosty Hesson and who dated (and married) a girl named Kim. I have no doubt that there were a lot of embellishments, particularly with the ancillary characters and storylines, but the core of this unbelievable story actually happened. The real Jay Moriarity must have had a pretty lousy childhood.

In spite of the cheese, the beauty that is Chasing Mavericks cannot be overstated. If you’re even remotely entranced by surfing, water, waves, or some combination of those things, then you’ll find plenty of gorgeous things to look at during this film, and that’s before we get to our cast of good-looking actors and actresses. The film was directed by Curtis Hanson and, when Hanson got ill, Michael Apted, who is best known as a documentary filmmaker, stepped in for the last few weeks of filming. It’s tough to tell who started when, and what parts of what films made it into the final cut, but the uniform guiding principle is the brilliant cinematography from Bill Pope and Oliver Euclid.

Another positive of the movie is its cast. Jonny Weston is an appealing lead, and he did a good job with the material he was given. Gerard Butler is also very good in his role, though it’s a pretty stock role. Elisabeth Shue and Abigail Spencer are given the shorter stick when it comes to their parts, as Jay’s mother and Frosty’s wife, respectively. Weston has to carry the movie (when the surfing isn’t doing it) and he’s able to pull it off.

Chasing Mavericks, like the soul surfing that inspired it, is a great deal about introspection, about dealing with the self. It’s not the most fascinating or unique journey on screen, but it’s relaxing and familiar. Just keep your expectations tempered.

US Correspondent Ron Hogan has always been interested in surfing, but has never had the dexterity, skill, patience, or surfboard needed to learn. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.


3 out of 5