Learning to surf is supposed to be difficult—I’ve tried. So when a snotty 8-year-old, Jay Moriarty (Cooper Timberline), catches and stands on his first try in an opening scene of Chasing Mavericks
, I saw the wave of joy on his dewy face as the shit-gobbling smile of a lucky dilettante—even if this is based on a true story. The film centers on the ambitious goals of teenage Jay (now played Jonny Weston) and his grueling training sessions with local surf master Frosty (Gerard Butler). In a way, it’s The Karate Kid
with a slightly cooler Daniel and an emotionally infirm Mr. Miyagi, but I’m hesitant to take the comparison that far. The true series of events has been chopped up and screwed around Hollywood style, sharks are cheesily reflected in visors, and cannabis use is strictly frowned upon (by Jay, at least). Clichés are glued together hastily and awkwardly. Let’s get one thing straight: As claimed on the official website, Chasing Mavericks
features “some of the most mind-blowing real wave footage ever captured on film.” Surfers are shown numerous times catching and failing to catch massive walls of water, and seeing them teetering atop these waves inspires some respect for the real Jay and his story. Still, the messianic respect heaped on Jay and Frosty without a hint of irreverence will leave most viewers wondering what’s underneath the surfboard wax. At one point, Jay poses a question: “Have you ever felt like you were meant for something more, something bigger than you?” I’ll sleep soundly knowing this film wasn’t meant for anything more.