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After spending some time in Hawaii a bunch of years ago, even then I knew about the 1987 film North Shore, because it was an ‘80s movie. And despite a small fetish for productions set in Hawaii I never saw the film because it was an ‘80s film, but I never realized how it was. Look, do you want the story of The Karate Kid, but surfing in Hawaii? Then I have the film for you!
From a story by William Phelps and Randal Kleiser, Phelps wrote the screenplay and directed (Kleiser was the executive producer of the film), which focuses on Rick (Matt Adler, Teen Wolf), who has won all of the surfing competitions in Arizona, and decides he wants to try surfing the legendary waves of Hawaii, forgoing a chance to pursue a career in art design. Rick finds out he's a big fish in a little pond, unknowingly finding conflict with Hawaii locals, and eventually finds shelter and counsel from Chandler (Gregory Harrison, Falcon Crest), who moved to the islands a while ago and never looked back. Rick also finds a love interest in Kiani (Nia Peeples, Fame) as he tries to learn about the power of the waves and use his talents accordingly.
It really is kind of eerie how much it reminds you of Daniel Russo's karate journey; Rick finds trouble among the locals who resent his presence (as they do most folks who travel from the States), and pro surfers Gerry Lopez, Laird Hamilton and Derek Ho were cast in those roles. He finds a wise older man who has his own internal conflict, in Chandler's case it's trying to get a surf business off the ground. There's a sporting competition that serves as the third act, and Elisabeth Shue comes out and hugs the winner! Wait, that last part may not be true…
There are also moments of general silliness in how random they are. Kiani makes an appearance on a horse on the North Shore. Now I didn't go to the Shore every day but went there a lot over three years, and I don't remember a horse being on the beach, there was a definite "LOOK AT ME" energy associated with it. And speaking of "LOOK AT ME," Rick walking into a Waikiki nightclub with surfboard under his hand, before sitting down and entertaining a prostitute to his obliviousness? That's just so random it's silly. But if you want to hammer the main characters somehow, this is the way to do it I guess. In terms of performance, Adler and Peeples are fine if not unspectacular, and Harrison shows a little unexpected range as the older consigliere. As far as Lopez, Hamilton et al go, well, they're good surfers, so there's that.
I don't mind chintz for chintz' sake, but it seems like North Shore wanted to capitalize on a story formula that worked really well a few years before, but wanted to cut costs on a lot of what made a movie like that work; the devotion of the execution and genuine feeling of the emotion, and that void isn't filled by anything in North Shore. At least I had the chance to see Waimea one more time, so good for me.The Blu-ray:
Unclear to me if a new transfer was done for this, but doubt this was the case. The 1.85:1 presentation looks good; colors and flesh tones are natural, and filters for some of the background images can be discerned. Film grain is present but not too prevalent and the image looks a little cleaner than you'd expect, but shows up a little in the darker moments. Fine for what it is.The Sound:
DTS-HD MA two-channel audio for this, and it sounds fine, dialogue is well-balanced and consistent, the waves and water could sound a little stronger in the first and third act. Music sounds fine and again, for what it is, it's OK.The Extras:
Kino does their nice job at one-upping any standard definition release out there, starting with a commentary with Phelps and Kleiser. The two discuss how they came to the film, and the goals of the story. They spot trivia among the cast, crew and music, and provide some illustration to some of the Hawaiian intricacies. Some biographical information on the real-life surfers is recalled, and some identifying shot breakdown. There is a little bit of onset recall, but it's an overall fine track for fans of the film. "North Shore Unscripted" (28:06) is a recent-ish but undated piece with interviews from Adler, Harrison and Peeples as they talk about surfing, Hawaii, the film and their preparation for it, and its legacy since. There are three deleted scenes (3:10) and an alternate ending (1:52) that includes Peeples' character, but not Peeples, if that makes any sense, and a few trailers.Final Thoughts:
Apparently North Shore has a cult following which I understand to a very small degree, but I couldn't get away from the feeling that it was really derivative, just the backdrop of it was changed and not much else. Technically, the disc looks and sounds OK, and the commentary is a nice inclusion. But if you should only really give this a spin (or deeper) if you really like it.