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"BLUE CRUSH"
(2002) (Kate Bosworth, Matthew Davis) (PG-13)

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QUICK TAKE:
Drama: A young surfer becomes distracted from winning a local surfing competition when she meets a visiting professional football player.
PLOT:
Anne Marie Chadwick (KATE BOSWORTH) is a young surfer living in Hawaii who's trying to make ends meet while pursuing her goal of competing in and winning the prestigious but dangerous Pipe Masters competition.

Living with her surfer friends Eden (MICHELLE RODRIGUEZ) and Lena (SANOE LAKE), Anne Marie works with them as maids at a local hotel while trying to raise her younger sister, Penny (MIKA BOOREM), who's now entering a rebellious stage. She must also put up with local surfers such as Drew (CHRIS TALOA), her former boyfriend, who don't think that girls should be surfing, let alone entering surfing contests.

Determined to prove him and others wrong, Anne Marie works hard at training and mentally preparing herself for the competition, but is still haunted by a near drowning incident three years earlier during another contest. She also finds herself distracted by Matt (MATTHEW DAVIS), a professional football player who, like the comically obese Leslie (FAIZON LOVE), is in town for the Pro Bowl.

After Anne Marie is fired for confronting Leslie about his lack of hotel room cleanliness, she ends up spending more time with Matt. This doesn't sit well with Eden who believes him to be using her for a week of fun before heading home and thus ruining her chances of winning. With the days counting down to the competition, Anne Marie must then decide what's right for her, all while battling internal and external doubts about her ability to compete in the surfing competition.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
While there have been countless movies about football, baseball and basketball as well as those who participate in or dream about doing so in such sports, others, such as surfing, have been given the short shrift when it comes to screen time.

Sure, there have been a handful of dramas such as 1987's "North Shore" "Shimmering Light" from 1978 and "Big Wednesday" with Jan-Michael Vincent and Gary Busey, actions ones including "Point Break" that have used it as a backdrop for the main story, and some excellent documentaries such as the two "Endless Summer" films.

Yet, when you mention surfing and movies, many people are probably inclined to think of the series of "Beach Party" films from the 1960s where Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon "surfed" in front of rear screen projectors to simulate - albeit rather unconvincingly - the activity.

Such associations are bound to change, however, with the release of "Blue Crush," a "girl power" drama where surfing is the focal point of the story and the lifeblood of the characters. That's not meant to imply that it's a good movie, however, as the drama doesn't stray far from the predictable and mundane when not dipping its toes into some murky melodramatic waters.

Working from the magazine article "Surf Girls of Maui" by Susan Orlean, screenwriter Lizzy Weiss (making her debut) and co-screenwriter/director John Stockwell ("crazy/beautiful," HBO's "Breast Men") should have spent an equal amount of time trying to fashion a better script as they did in capturing the first-person look, feel, terror and exhilaration of surfing. In fact, and notwithstanding some obviously faked and completely unnecessary digitally enhanced or created effects, the surfing footage is well worth the price of admission.

Featuring behind-the-camera work of Don King, Sonny Miller and body-boarder Michael Stewart as well as that of professional surfers Rochelle Ballard, Megan Abudo, Kate Skarratt and others in front of the lens, the in-water scenes - filmed entirely on location on the North Shore of Oahu - are nothing short of amazing and completely enthralling to behold. For anyone who's ever surfed or simply just been out splashing around in big waves, the film perfectly captures such moments and the cinematography is simply breathtaking.

For those who welcome the sights of attractive "babes in bikinis," the film offers plenty of that as well. Yet, notwithstanding the abundant amounts of skin and shapely bodies, this is more than some buxom Baywatch bimbo experience as the young women are just as intriguing for their determination in matching or even beating the boys at what's predominately a male-dominated sport as they are for possessing trim, athletic bodies.

The lifestyle and camaraderie of the three women - played by Kate Bosworth ("Remember the Titans," "The Horse Whisperer"), Michelle Rodriguez ("The Fast and the Furious," "Girlfight"), and Sanoe Lake (making her debut) - comes off as credible and Bosworth, the protagonist, clearly has a commanding screen presence that drives the film.

Nevertheless, when the class differences, romance with the football player and self-doubt material pop-up, the film's momentum flattens like a surfer's worst nightmare. For not only do the filmmakers then trot out various recycled and clichéd plot elements, contrivances and melodrama, but they also don't do anything particularly interesting with them.

Sure, the film's target audience will probably eat up the angst and young love material as much as they will the often frenetic on-land camera work and editing (that includes far too much sped-up footage). Yet, that doesn't mean that more thought and energy shouldn't have been added to the mix. Had that been the case, the film might have been a classic of the genre. As it stands, the drama is serviceable at best, but only saved by the surfing moments.

Beyond the charismatic Bosworth, real-life surfer Lake is believable in her role as one of the friends, but Rodriguez is once again hampered in a role playing the unconvincing part of what's essentially the motivational nag.

Matthew Davis ("Legally Blonde," "Pearl Harbor") appears as the pro football player who sweeps the protagonist off her board. While the chemistry between them is good and they have some fun, early romance scenes together, the melodrama eventually crashes over them and drowns any possibility of anything good coming from that (not to mention that Davis would never be confused for a pro football player).

The latter also holds true for Faizon Love ("Made," "The Replacements") who appears as another player and comic relief character who has no shame in eliciting laughs by showing off his obese body. Chris Taloa (making his debut) plays the standard issue, local surfer jerk, while Mika Boorem ("The Patriot," "Hearts of Atlantis") embodies the protagonist's younger and increasingly rebellious sister.

Since Anne Marie is taking care of her as a surrogate mother of sorts, it seems unlikely that she'd participate in a potentially deadly sport. That's especially true after we're repeatedly informed about such dangers and constantly reminded of her near death drowning experience the last time around. Nonetheless, the filmmakers don't seem to care or apparently forgot to take that into consideration (other loose ends are also left flapping in the coastal breeze).

With its increasing melodrama and even partial hokeyness, the film teeters between being rather bad at times and coming off as something of a forgivable guilty pleasure at others. Yet, the presence of Bosworth and the terrific surfing scenes and amazing camera footage make the film worth checking out, especially if you love surfing or just watching Mother Nature's oceanic "special effects" at work. "Blue Crush" rates as a 5 out of 10.




Reviewed August 13, 2002 / Posted August 16, 2002


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