Relationship makes waves in surfer film

Studly boyfriend is a distraction in girl-powered `Blue Crush' Romance sinks plot of `Crush'


August 16, 2002|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

Blue Crush is such a blast to look at, it seems a shame to talk about its formulaic plot, cliched dialogue and absolute predictability, not to mention a relationship that undercuts much of what the movie is trying to say.

So let's hold off for a while and look at the positives. And there are several.

Anne Marie (Kate Bosworth) is a gal on a mission: A champion surfer since she was a little girl, she has dreams of making the big time. And when you live in Hawaii, and spend every one of your spare moments atop a surfboard, and have to struggle to make financial ends meet, those dreams can lead to only one thing: mastering the pipe, the most dangerous, most spectacular waves imaginable, and riding them all the way to tournament championships and big-money sponsorships.

Having been abandoned by their man-dependent mother, Anne Marie and her rebellious younger sister, Penny (Mika Boorem), live in a ramshackle house on the poor side of Oahu (statesiders with a romantic notion of Hawaii may be surprised to learn there is such a thing, but there is), sharing their space and their lives with fellow surf-fanatics Eden (Michelle Rodriguez of Girlfight) and Lena (Sanoe Lake). The three older girls work as housekeepers at one of the island's four-star hotels, where they endure all manner of psychological degradation - serving at the whim of pampered, self-indulgent tourists - to make enough money to support their surfing-is-everything lifestyle.

But what Eden and Lena mostly do is push Anne Marie, who clearly is the most talented of the trio. That works fine for a while (although the little matter of a childhood surfing accident that nearly killed her has a bad habit of giving Anne Marie the willies from time to time) until - wouldn't you know it? - a man bumbles his way into the picture and threatens to mess everything up.

That man would be NFL superstar quarterback Matt Tollman (Matthew Davis), who spies Anne Marie on the beach, offers her and her pals $150 a day to teach him and a few of his buds how to surf, and soon takes a liking to her. This leads to friction between Anne Marie and Eden, who insists it's impossible to train for the pipe and make goo-goo eyes at a new boyfriend at the same time.

The surfing scenes in Blue Crush are truly spectacular, worthy successors to the footage in 1966's Endless Summer that inspired the first great surfing craze. The cameras put viewers right inside the waves (or beneath them, as the scene requires), and it's easy to understand the adrenaline rush surfers experience while riding them.

(There is one problem, though it might seem a nit not worth picking: In these days of computer-generated images, it's hard to say what's real and what's just a product of techno-wizardry. CGI was used in Blue Crush, and newspaper reports have said Bosworth's face was attached to the bodies of real-life surfers for some of the action scenes - a bit of trickery that, if nothing else, makes Blue Crush hard to trust, though no tougher to enjoy.)

Posited as something of a Gidget for the new millennium, Blue Crush is equal parts surfer flick and girl-power screed; yeah, these gals wear bikinis and hang out at the beach, but they're not a bunch of wallflowers depending on their Moondoggie boyfriends for an identity.

The girls hang together, supporting each other and taking on the guys at their own game; one of the movie's undercurrents is how guy surfers fail to take the gals seriously, and how ludicrous that is (the movie is based on a newspaper article, "The Surf Girls of Maui," and features several champion surfers playing themselves).

All that wonderfulness aside, however, there's no getting around the movie's disappointments. For one thing, the movie's resolution becomes obvious about 20 minutes in, and the remaining 80-plus minutes betray little that's unexpected.

All the talk about reaching inside yourself, not shortchanging your talents and not letting distractions get in the way has been a staple of sports movies for decades. Writer-director John Stockwell took on a similarly conventional movie scenario - boy and girl from opposing worlds meet and fall in love - with last year's crazy/beautiful, and made it seem fresh. No such luck this time around.

There's even a groaningly trite scene in which one character overhears the nasty things people are saying about her while sitting in a bathroom stall (how original!). And Anne Marie is the only character given much of an arc, and that's only because of her romance with a studly quarterback.

Which brings up a more serious sore point: In a film all about girl power and making it in man's world, why have Anne Marie's motivation to keep going - in the face of both danger and disappointment - come from a guy?

There's plenty of adrenaline in Blue Crush, lots of beautiful bodies and plenty of awesome waves. The movie does fine by its environment, not so well by its convictions.

Blue Crush

Starring Kate Bosworth, Michelle Rodriguez, Matthew Davis

Directed and co-written by John Stockwell

Released by Universal

Rated PG-13 (sexual content, teen partying, language and a fight)

Time 104 minutes

Sun score: **1/2

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