Chasing Mavericks is one of those hoary "based on a true story" movies that borders on hagiography. It's a fictionalized take on the early life of surfing wunderkind Jay Moriarity (Jonny Weston) and his attempt with the help of his mentor Frosty (Gerard Butler) to conquer the giant waves known as "mavericks." Although the beaches of North California and their crashing waves are gorgeous the story and the acting don't hold water. Chasing Mavericks is more interested in showing Moriarity to be a hero than an actual person and the movie suffers for it in the end.
Weston plays Moriarity as a 15-year-old and although Weston is still in his early twenties he looks disconcertingly older. The tan make-up doesn't help and neither does his hollow performance which is mostly just him looking wide-eyed and earnest. He's not given much to work with the challenges he has to overcome not given much weight at all. Moriarity's dad left when he was a kid and his mom (Elisabeth Shue) is often drunk and can't keep a job. This could have been an interesting development — Jay has to take care of her and loan her money and lives in what looks like a cubbyhole in the living room — but it's given short shrift. The movie Moriarity patiently does her laundry and wakes her up for work instead of what a normal 15-year-old would do which would probably include at the very least some choice four letter words or acting out. Although his mentoring at the hands of Butler's Frosty does explore some of Jay's pain and fears he's not particularly affected by anything. He just shakes it all off like a shaggy dog who's spent a day at the beach.
Other plot developments are equally toothless and without any real consequence. He has a bully who verbally taunts him but eventually respects him. His best friend is either doing or selling drugs given his shady goings-on and wads of dough in his pocket. Moriarity holds a torch for his childhood friend Kim (Leven Rambin) who is apparently embarrassed to be seen with him but even she isn't all that bad. It's like an after-school special that runs for 105 minutes (but feels much longer).
His crusty mentor Frosty is supposed to be a damaged man whose passion for surfing trumps everything even it seems supporting his family. At one point it's clear he's lied to his wife about going to do construction work but she just sort of shrugs it off. Brenda (Abigail Spencer) knows Frosty's love for the ocean and how it heals him from past tragedies so she mostly tolerates his behavior aside from a few sharp remarks. As his voiceover indicates (delivered by Butler with an accent that goes in and out) these "Children of the Tides" are simply drawn to the ocean even if it kills them. The passion trumps all as it surely did in the life of the real Jay Moriarity.
The footage of the men surfing is the centerpiece of the story which is probably why everything else feels like an afterthought. Even this is uneven though. Some of it is obviously Butler and Weston — Butler was injured on the set while filming a surfing scene — but the faraway shots don't really match up. It's not clear if this is archival footage or if it's just poorly edited and filmed. A few scenes in the movie look startlingly different all cloudy grays with Butler haggard and thinner and although it could be just a really ham-handed way to visually indicate grief this interlude looks like it's from an entirely different movie. A perk of Chasing Mavericks is its "alternative" music soundtrack that is immediately recognizable and surprisingly on point with songs from Mazzy Star Matthew Sweet and the Butthole Surfers popping up at appropriate times.
While surely the people involved in making the film are dedicated to preserving Jay's memory and inspiring others it's hard to take it seriously or be emotionally moved by such a blatantly unblemished portrayal. Real tributes show that grit and shortcomings of their subjects as much as why they're heroes.
Over the next few months, we’ll see new series soar, old series sour, and so much Jersey Shore madness, we’ll want to shower. Let’s face it: The Fall TV season is intimidating. With dozens of new and returning shows hitting our small screens, we know we have some big choices to make. So, to help you determine what to watch, we’re digging deep into the most notable series premiering this season. Where did each show leave off? Where is it headed? And who should you watch it with? Next up is NBC's bit new mystery show Revolution. The Beatles told us you wanted it, so here it is.
New Series: Revolution
Premiere Date: Monday, September 17, at 10 PM on NBC
Tag Line: "What happens when all the lights go out?" In the first scene, some crazy event happens that knocks out all forms of electricity on the planet Earth. Planes crash, cars die, and society goes absolutely berserk. There is only one scientist who knows what happens. Cut to 15 years after "the event," and the country has been divided into tiny hamlets that are ruled by regional warlords. One of them kills the one scientist, who sends his daughter Charlie off on a quest to find his brother and, hopefully, turn the power back on.
Famous Pedigree: JJ Abrams is a producer.
Failed Advertising Slogans: "Revolution is electrifying." "When there is no power there is still great responsibility." "It keeps going and going and going..."
You’d Like It If…: You think that Terra Nova was cancelled too soon, that Lost was the best show ever on television, that the only problem with The Walking Dead is all the zombies, and that the Unabomber actually had some good points.
You’ll Hate It If…: You like all your questions answered at the end of the hour, happy endings, and doing your hair with a curling iron.
Hollywood Trend Watch: Just like Katniss Everdeen, the Avenger Hawkeye, and Daryl on The Walking Dead, everyone uses bows and arrows. Apparently guns use electricity. Really? Are you sure?
Character to Love: Giancarlo Esposito, who chilled hearts as drug lord Gus Fring on Breaking Bad isn't breaking his bad reputation. He plays Capt. Tom Neville, a militia leader with a mean streak and a few secrets.
Character to Hate: It's a tie between Graham Rogers' Danny, a ne'er-do-well son of the famous scientist who seems like he's going to be getting into a lot of silly Kim Bauer-from-24 scrapes. Cue the mountain lion. His rival is Zak Orth's Aaron, who is like Hurley from Lost, an overweight billionaire who is just along to provide the necessary comic relief and inspirational aphorisms at key moments. Get a real character, Dude.
Character That Will Most Remind You of a Twilight Character: I don't know if it's the buff body or the simmering stares, but JD Pardo's Nate is basically Taylor Lautner's Jacob with a, you guessed it, bow and arrow.
Famous Faces: Elizabeth Mitchell, from Lost, joins the cast in episode two when she was recast to play the famous scientist's second wife and Danny's and his bratty sister Charlie's (yes, that's a girl) evil stepmother. Well, at least that's what they think.
Setting: It starts off in a small town, but soon the action travels to Chicago, which is still a big city, but one that looks more like Deadwood than Tron. Also, there are trees growing on all the buildings. That's how you know the power is still out. Danny also ends up on a farm. Maybe if we're lucky, he'll buy it. Oh, and it's in the future. Did I mention that?
What You're Most Like to Yell at the Screen: "Why aren't you using guns?! Guns don't use electricity!"
DIY Revolution: It's pretty easy to recreate this show in your very own home. Just go into the basement, shut off the power, and then sit in the darkness. For added effect, you can get your neighbors to chase you around while shooting arrows.
High Point: The surprising ending. No, I'm not going to tell you what happens. This isn't the spoiler page.
Low Point: The groan-worthy death scene of our famous scientist. It's like the cartoon version of a gasping man dying in the street with just one more secret he needs to get out before he expires.
If You Love This Show, You'll Love...: Ashrams, Mennonites, archery.
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan
[Photo Credit: NBC]
First Look at 'Revolution' From Star Tracy Spiridakos
'Revolution' Gives a Supercharged Story with Half-Powered Characters
NBC's 'Revolution': Could This Epic Fill the ‘LOST’ Void?