John P. Johnson / 20th Century Fox

Gerard Butler, left, and Jonny Weston star in "Chasing Mavericks," the true story of surfer Jay Moriarity's quest for giant waves.

Movie review: 'Mavericks' flounders under its own weight

Published: Friday, Oct. 26, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 14TICKET

"Chasing Mavericks" breaks through the clichés associated with surfer movies – the carefree beach party fantasies, the fake mysticism – and offers a portrait that has a lot more integrity. In this telling, the really serious surfers, the big wave guys, are anything but happy-go-lucky airheads. They are athletes who study currents and wave patterns and train their minds as well as their bodies, knowing that they're doing something almost crazy that has a good chance of killing them.

So at the very least, audiences will come away from "Chasing Mavericks" with a deeper understanding of surfing and an appreciation for surfers. Love has a way of demanding respect, and the more irrational and dangerous the love is, the more interesting. Yet for all that, and despite the collaboration of two estimable directors – Michael Apted (the "Up" series) and Curtis Hanson ("L.A. Confidential") – "Chasing Mavericks" moves as fast as a runner in waist-high water and wears out its welcome.

The film is the true story of Jay Moriarity (Jonny Weston), a teenager from Santa Cruz, who became famous overnight for surviving one of the worst wipeouts in history. While surfing a wave the size of an apartment building, he fell and was held under water by the current. Moriarity went on to have a legendary surfing career.

"Chasing Mavericks" tells of Moriarity's discovery of surfing and his training to surf the giant waves that break at Mavericks Point off Half Moon Bay. The training is systematic and guided by an older surfer, Frosty (Gerard Butler), with whom he forms a father-son bond. In one way, the training is too rigorous: The story gets locked in the training phase and stays there until the viewer is more exhausted than Moriarity.

Weston has a lovable, guileless quality reminiscent of the real Moriarity, who is shown at the end of the picture, and the surfing scenes are well-shot and interesting until they cease to be interesting.

There is a pretty good 90-minute movie trapped inside this 111-minute extravaganza. As it stands, this one is mainly for surfing aficionados.


CHASING MAVERICKS

★★

Cast: Jonny Weston and Gerard Butler

Director: Curtis Hanson and Michael Apted

111 minutes

Rated PG (Contains some roughhousing and dangerous surf)

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Read more articles by Mick LaSalle San Francisco Chronicle



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