There have been many films that tell the story of one's passion for a sport. Chasing Mavericks follows the true story of Jay Moriarity and is as much of a coming of age story as it is about surfing. While it uses a lot of the clichés audiences are familiar with, there's actually a good movie buried underneath the sappy dialogue. While it remains hidden for about half of the running time, the remainder of the film shows some promise. There will be some non-surfing aficionados who will enjoy it, but this film is directly targeted towards those who have an interest in surfing.
Young Jay Moriarity (Jonny Weston) uses the sport of surfing as an escape from his life of taking care of his absent mother (Elisabeth Shue). One day, he sneaks his way onto Frosty Hesson's (Gerard Butler) truck and discovers that the mythic Mavericks surf break, which is one of the biggest waves on Earth, exists just miles from his Santa Cruz home. Jay convinces Frosty to help train him to survive the Mavericks so that he can surf the waves that could otherwise be certain death.
When it comes to filmmaking, there's a fine line between being sappy and heartfelt. Unfortunately, Chasing Mavericks comes across as being overly sentimental. While the film constantly tries to get audiences to connect with Jay, it fails to make him a genuine character with all of the dramatic dialogue that comes across as being over-the-top. Before this film even gets into the bulk of its content, viewers will be able to guess nearly every major plot point. Some of these crucial moments don't receive the time required to connect with audiences. I won't go into such plot details, otherwise they would be considered spoilers. There are other scenes in the movie that simply don't make sense. Sonny (Taylor Handley) is older than Jay and has been bullying him since they were children, although it makes absolutely no sense when it carried over from being kids to young adults. Jay's relationships with the majority of the characters are superficial and barely even scratch the surface. Writer Kario Salem should have spent more time on going deeper into his relations with those around him. The most successful one to be seen is the connection between Jay and his mother, which plays a bigger role in the final portion of the feature.
Once the second half of the film begins, the movie begins to pick itself up. The story becomes more about surfing and less about melodramatic plot elements. Even though the dialogue itself is sappy, this film is based off of a true story that actually has some merit. While the script has its serious problems, the film highly improves through the second half. Even if you don't know anything about surfing, you just might learn some stuff about this sport that has generated an entire style of living and critical thinking. This aspect of the film is handled with care and conveyed well. Once the ending comes along, audiences will discover that while Jay is a likable character, there aren't any connections made with the viewers. This is a forgettable screenplay, although there are some solid moments in the film that present worthwhile messages for all moviegoers.
Even if Chasing Mavericks had a cast composed of Oscar-winners, they wouldn't be able to deliver star performances with this dialogue. With that in mind, these performances are suitable. Jonny Weston could have used the most work on his acting in the role of Jay Moriarity. He fits the image that many audiences have of a surfer, but he isn't able to quite pull off the deeper aspects of the character. Gerard Butler does a good job as Frosty Hesson, even though there are moments when his character from 300 comes to the surface. Despite the fact that Jay's mother, Kristy Moriarity, doesn't receive a lot of screen time, Elisabeth Shue does well with this role. She's convincing as the depressed mother who isn't emotionally present for her son. However, her love for her son still manages to shine through as more dimensions of her character are explored. The material isn't anything notable, but the overall quality of the performances are fine.
Whenever there isn't drama on screen, people are surfing. There are some magnificent shots of the ocean and the characters catching wave after wave. Once the characters begin to surf the mavericks, the visuals are kicked up a notch. These are huge waves that tower over the surfers and create bass loud enough to shake the floors in the theater rooms. The shots of these waves are absolutely beautiful, but the danger is present. There are a lot of surfing movies out there, but there aren't very many that capture the sport as gracefully as Chasing Mavericks does. Whether or not you're interested in surfing, you will find the visuals to be wonderful.
While this film is focused on the drama that the story has to provide, a lot of it comes across as sappy. The few potentially emotional moments the plot has to offer are rushed. The story constantly moves from one scene to the next without taking the time to dig deeper into the subject matter. By the time the credits are rolling, it's clear that we never got to learn very much about these characters. The relationships that they share are superficial. These characters are the stereotypical cookie-cutters that the drama genre has become far too familiar with. Despite all of these issues, there's a good movie hidden somewhere amongst the chaos. The concept and messages of the story are good and the surfing footage is outstanding. Chasing Mavericks is entertaining enough to check out when it's available on DVD/Blu-ray. Rent it.