If you really want me to run through the plot, though: Matthew McConaughey settles into pretty much his dream role as Steve Addington, an ace surfer who always has an impossibly gorgeous woman and a joint within arm's reach, is paid to hit up every legendary surf spot the world over, and spends the entire flick with his shirt off. Hell, he even gets to play a didgeridoo buck nekkid.
Addy's set up shop again in Malibu after another tour across the globe, but it's not so much the homecoming he had in mind. His sponsors have forked over Addington's contract to Eddie Zarno (Jeffrey Nordling), an aging surfer turned sleazy-slicked-back-hair Hollywood type. Zarno wants Addington to be the centerpiece of his new multimedia surfing empire, complete with a reality TV show and a first-person video game. Addington gives the whole thing a polite, half-baked thumbs-down -- he's just a surfer, dude -- so Zarno yanks his expense accounts, refuses to let him sign on with another sponsor, tosses his manager-slash-best friend (Woody Harrelson) in the pokey, and gets him booted out of his beachhouse. Zarno even cuts together a video that makes it look like Addy's shrugging off surfers as "assclowns"...that -- gasp! -- surfing's lame!
C'mon, though...does that really matter? Addington's a surfer -- he doesn't need money, man...just waves. No one can take that away from him, right? Right? Well...yeah, actually. All of a sudden, So-Cal goes weeks on end without a swell on its shores. Most of Addington's pals set up shop in the Reality House for some virtual surfing, but he's holding out for the real thing...even offering up a sacrifice to the surfing gods by giving up weed and women. No dice. Even trotting down to Mexico with a too-cute ex-producer from the reality show (Alexie Gilmore) doesn't do the trick: the flat surf nips at Addington's heels wherever he goes. As the weeks drag on without any waves, Addington starts to lose it, to the point where he picks up Zarno's pen and is ready to sign his life away for a five-figure payday...
Y'know, for a movie with "surfer" in the title, there's not a whole heckuva lot of surfing in it...or much of a sense of humor...or a plot meaty enough to grab onto. It's just bongs, a half-battalion of nubile twentysomethings who are either topless or close enough to it, and a whole lot of nothing going on. It's a stoner surfing comedy, only it chucks the surfing and comedy out the driver's side window. It's just Matthew McConaughey strutting around with his shirt off for 85 minutes and palling around with Willie Nelson, Woody Harrelson, and a bunch of his other buddies. Yeah, I'm sure it was a blast to make, but to watch...? No, not so much. It's just an empty, meandering, self-indulgent vanity project with a quadruple-underlined moral (you make your own paradise, man!). I mean, it's a nice looking flick, I really like bright-eyed Sarah Wright and the understatedly adorable Alexie Gilmore as two of the only folks who really stand behind Addington, and...well, it's pretty much tailor-made for Matthew McConaughey, but Surfer, Dude is too sleepy and laidback, kind of just rambling on for an hour and a half in a drug-addled haze. The cast and basic concept are alright, but I guess four credited writers and seven years (!) spent polishing Surfer, Dude's script weren't enough to put together a...um, actual movie. Rent It. Video
Surfer, Dude's intensely stylized visuals might spark some griping and moaning in the usual gearhead forums, but at least for my money, the movie looks terrific on Blu-ray. The lightly letterboxed 1.85:1 image is remarkably crisp and brimming with fine detail. The photography is quite a bit grainier than usual -- a look I'll admit to digging more than most -- and this AVC encode has enough headroom to keep that gritty texture tight and clean throughout. While most surfing flicks set in So-Cal would probably stick with bright, sunny visuals, Surfer, Dude opts to drain away pretty much all of its color. Most of the exteriors have a faint golden tint, while the Reality House and the opening bit in the airport are drenched in a cold, sterile blue. Black levels are consistently deep and punchy, even when the contrast is kind of skewed. Surfer, Dude looks outstanding on Blu-ray, and it's...kind of the only thing piled on here that I'd point to as being all that great.
Surfer, Dude sports a 16-bit Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track, but since pretty much the entire movie is people standing around and talking, it doesn't exactly lend itself to some sort of hyperaggressive sound design. It's a decently atmospheric mix, though -- lapping waves, crowd chatter...that sorta thing -- and the music spreads out nicely across all of the channels at its fingertips. Bass response is solid, from the crushing roar of those breaking waves to the thumping low-end in the island-flavored soundtrack. Most of the audio's attention is aimed at the dialogue, and it's nicely balanced in the mix and belted out without any issues or concerns. Nah, it's not demo material or anything, but this lossless soundtrack does what it needs to, and that's good enough for me.
There aren't any dubs this time around, although Surfer, Dude does serve up subtitles in English (SDH) and Spanish.
The Final Word
A stoner comedy without the...y'know, comedy, Surfer, Dude just kind of stumbles around aimlessly for eightysomething minutes. Nope, no real laughs, not much in the way of really great surfing shots...just weed, women, and stoner philosophy that rambles on at least a half hour longer than it really should. Surfer, Dude isn't unwatchable or anything, but this kinda shameless vanity project is as limp and lifeless as the story's flat surf. If you've gotta see it, Rent It.