“Mavericks” is a hokey, manipulative melodrama in which Butler, as sort of a local surf-god on California’s rocky coast, takes an aspiring surfer under his wing and teaches him how to hang ten. Essentially, “Chasing Mavericks” is a variation on “The Karate Kid” formula, with Butler taking on the Miyagi role and newcomer Johnny Weston filling in for Daniel-san. But the movie is nowhere near as entertaining as “The Karate Kid,” if only because surfing holds about as much appeal as clipping your nails.
Still, the movie is not as bad as it appears to be in the ads. Yes, the characters have an annoying habit of speaking in platitudes rather than actual conversation (“This is about more than just surfing. It’s about choices you make in life. It’s about finding that one thing that sets you free”), and yes, Elisabeth Shue is stuck, once again, in a perfunctory role that is her third such perfunctory role in a few short months. But the father/son kinship between the leads is engaging, the surfing footage is exciting and well-shot, and the soundtrack contains a couple of terrific ’90s gems that boost the action whenever the hokiness threatens to drag the movie down.
Based on the true story of real-life Maverick-chaser Jay Moriarity, “Chasing Mavericks” clearly invents a couple of unlikely hurdles for the sake of dramatic effect (including a punk rival potentially on loan from an ’80s movie), and the movie feels about 20 minutes longer than it needs to be. There are better movies about surfing out there, but as inspirational “Karate Kid”-ripoffs about a sport with limited appeal go, “Chasing Mavericks” is an entertaining one.
★★½ out of ★★★★
Rated PG for violence. 116 minutes.
Directors: Curtis Hanson, Michael Apted. Starring: Gerard Butler, Johnny Weston.
Read more of Jesse Hoheisel’s reviews at thesuperawesomemovieblog.com.