BLUE CRUSH (director/writer: John Stockwell; screenwriters: Susan Orlean’s magazine article Surf Girls of Maui/Lizzy Weiss; cinematographer: David Hennings; editor: Emma E. Hickox; music: Paul Haslinger; cast: Kate Bosworth (Anne Marie Chadwick), Michelle Rodriguez (Eden), Matthew Davis (Matt Tollman), Sanoe Lake (Lena), Mika Boorem (Penny Chadwick), Faizon Love (Leslie, Football Player), Kala Alexander (Kala), Ruben Ejada (surfer, JJ), Chris Taloa (Drew); Runtime: 104; rated: PG-13; producer: Brian Grazer/Karen Kehela; Universal Pictures; 2002)
“I had no trouble going to the beach with Kate Bosworth, despite her lack of star charisma and knowing how it would turn out for her from the first moment she tried to catch a wave.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A guilty-pleasure summer treat about sexy babes in bikinis surfing in paradise (beaches just off Oahu). It is from thoughtful director John Stockwell (“Crazy/Beautiful“), who reaches out to his female audience in both his last and this film respectively with an understanding of the female plight. He’s also able to translate to the audience the thrill in surfing without preaching a Gidget-like mantra. The surfing scenes came together with startling ease, in a story he and Lizzie Weiss adapted from a magazine article entitled “Surf Girls of Maui” by Susan Orlean. Blue Crush surprised me in how easy the pic is to take, especially since I don’t give two hoots about surfboarding and hardly cared about the tepid romance presented and the professional concerns that vex the heroine surfer. Yet the laid-back surf scene is cool, the female bikini surfers are fine to look at, the scenic beaches are tempting to even a landlubber like myself, the hip-hop background music is appropriate, and the surfers doing their extreme-sports thing on the sparkling sea of blue with forceful waves kicking up as high as seemingly a city building, appealed to the sportsman I could have become if perhaps I was raised in Hawaii or if I didn’t have it drilled into me at an early age that the only sports to follow were baseball and football. I’m not saying that this beach blanket action/romance flick has much more of an appeal other than to guys who want to get an eyeful of the local scenery and to teen gals who crave the female empowerment message the film delivers. But, as far as underdog-themed sports films go, this surfer one keeps its shaky balance despite the predictability of its shallow water plot.
Cameraman David Hennings excels in shooting surfer footage that has a kick to it. John Stockwell wisely hides his functional but hardly scintillating landlocked soap opera story around the allure of Hawaii’s beaches and the near nakedness of the bikini-clad female surfers. The trio of female surfers surviving together on so little money while dwelling in a barely livable beach-house, was ample filler before the camera turned back to the killer waves and the film was rescued from drowning in the familiar goo of its tired story. The girls are all likable sorts. Their dream to ride the “perfect pipe” while breakfasting on Twinkies and working to pay the bills as maids in a posh hotel, seemed as if it were a realistic depiction of their chosen lifestyle.
The main character, Anne Marie (Kate Bosworth), is going through a mind-blowing trip of trying to get her nerve back to ride the big waves after nearly drowning in a wipeout three years ago while trying to tackle the Big Pipe. Unknown to the others, she’s having recurring nightmarish visions of that incident. In just a matter of days she’s again set to compete in the Pipe Masters competition on Oahu, where real-life surfers like the Australian champion Kate Skarratt will be competing. On her bathroom mirror, a reminder is written in red lipstick to “Train Hard! Go Big!” She views this before doing her dawn exercise routines.
The film opens as Kate Bosworth surfs in the ‘locals only’ surfing spot with her roommates and fellow maids, Lena (Sanoe Lake) and Eden (Michelle Rodriguez), and with her somewhat rebellious school-age teen sister Penny (Mika Boorem), who is under her custody because mom abandoned them. The girls jostle for respect from the local men surfers (Kala Alexander & Ruben Ejada) who are led by put-down artist and bully Drew (Chris Taloa).
An attempt is made to show the affects of class-distinction, as the girls toil as maids and are treated with little respect while the wealthy hotel guests are pampered in their quest for leisure. Staying at the hotel are some NFL stars who are in town for the Pro Bowl. One of them is the handsome, nice-guy, star quarterback, Matt Tollman (Matthew Davis), who is attracted to Anne Marie. He figures the best chance of meeting her is overpaying for surfing lessons, money which he figures he owes her since she got fired after complaining how messy his teammate, the hefty overweight offensive lineman Leslie (Faizon Love), left his room. Matt sees action when he advances rapidly to the head of the class in his surfing lessons and tries to ride the waves at the local beach, but he’s greeted with hostility by Drew and his boys who come up with the following retort: “we grew here, you flew here.” So it’s back to his luxury $1,000 a night hotel room with Anne Marie as an overnight guest, as the fun-loving QB is now sporting a shiner over his left eye but seemingly not minding it a bit.
The film builds up the tension as to whether the gutsy Anne Marie, the best local female surfer on the beach, who is interested in going pro, which means getting a surfer sponsor, is serious enough to meet the challenge of the Pipe Masters and not get side-tracked by her sudden romance with Matt. He’s someone she’s hesitant to trust, but he’s a hunk and treats her generously. These obstacles in her path are, of course, window dressing for the climactic scene in the competition, where the least she expects of herself is not to embarrass her friends who are considered family, as she’s worried that she might chicken out and not surfboard the pipe (fierce wave).
I had no trouble going to the beach with Kate Bosworth, despite her lack of star charisma and knowing how it would turn out for her from the first moment she tried to catch a wave.
REVIEWED ON 8/22/2002 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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