Blue Crush (United States, 2002)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

I suppose Blue Crush can be viewed as a "guilty pleasure", with an emphasis on the first word of that phrase over the second one. The movie, the latest directorial effort from John Stockwell (Crazy/Beautiful), is redeemed to one degree or another by some innovative camera work during the surfing sequences. However, Blue Crush's attempts at character building resort to clich├ęs and formulas that occasionally lead the movie down annoying paths. The film would have been more enjoyable had the balance shifted in favor of water-bound action over the land-based "drama", but the emphasis on the latter leaves Blue Crush waterlogged.

Ask me a baseball question, and I can probably answer it. I also have a fairly extensive understanding of football (American style) and basketball. But, when it comes to surfing, I admit knowing next-to-nothing, especially when it comes to the rules and regulations of competition. After viewing Blue Crush, my knowledge base hasn't been noticeably expanded. The film could have used a little more time spent in the water, and less wasted on the beaches and in the beds of a swanky Maui resort. Watching this movie is a little like the ebb and flow of tides - it peaks when the characters are surfing, then bottoms out when they're on dry land.

Stockwell and his cinematographer, David Hennings, have devised some innovative ways to present the ocean scenes. Instead of shooting them straight-on, which is standard for surfing movies (and ESPN), Stockwell mixes things up, occasionally going with overhead images and often taking the camera under water. Some of the shots seem too good to be true (closer to the action than a steady camera could possibly get), but, whatever method was used to capture them (digital trickery, perhaps?), it works. And any stunt doubling, of which there is probably a fair amount, is effectively obfuscated.

The story is hum-drum - a kind of surfer girls version of Rocky, although Blue Crush could have used more training sequences, and Bananarama's "Cruel Summer" isn't quite on par with Bill Conti's "Gonna Fly." Anne Marie (Kate Bosworth) is a would-be surfing champion, whose promising career came to a screeching halt three years ago when she almost drowned. Now, she's seeking to get into the national spotlight and snag a sponsor by surfing in Hawaii's most prestigious competition, Pipemasters. But the waves are big - really big - and Anne Marie's confidence isn't at an all-time high. She is urged on by her posse: tough-talking Eden (Michelle Rodriguez), sunny Lena (Sanoe Lake), and her smart little sister, Penny (Mika Boorem). And she has a new boyfriend, NFL quarterback Matt Tollman (Matthew Davis), who's on the island to play in the Pro Bowl.

Blue Crush tries to appeal to teenagers of both genders. For the girls, it's a female empowerment story - a "classic" tale of women triumphing over the elements without help from men. In fact, the guys in this story are not treated all that well. Matt, although attractive and attentive, is shown to be something of a cad, and the rest of the film's males are used for comic relief (like the surfing offensive lineman). For teenage boys, this is a diluted T&A flick. Of course, considering the PG-13 rating, there's not much "A", and even less "T". One gratuitous butt shot and a few cleavage flashes pretty much sum it up.

Acting is not Blue Crush's forte. The performances are serviceable, but nothing more. The lead is played by Kate Bosworth, who previously had a role in Remember the Titans. She looks good in a bathing suit, but her performance is a little less flexible than her board. Michelle Rodriguez once again has a supporting part as an unhappy-looking chick with no real backstory and little purpose other than to stand around looking mean. To say that she has been underused since Girlfight is to understate matters. Neither Sanoe Lake nor Mika Boorem does anything to stand out.

One of the stated intentions of Stockwell and co-writer Lizzy Weiss (who based her story on a magazine article by by Susan Orlean) was to make a surfing movie about the sport as it really is, rather than as it has been portrayed in other Hollywood-funded motion pictures. (Point Break is a sore spot with them.) To the extent that Blue Crush is about surfing, it does a good job. But, when only about 40-odd minutes out of 100 are spent in the water, that leaves a lot of space to fill, and that's where the movie has problems. Without the impressive photography and energetic action sequences, Blue Crush would have been a lot worse. But, if the filmmakers had invested in real characters instead of cardboard cut-outs, it would have been a lot better.

Blue Crush (United States, 2002)

Run Time: 1:42
U.S. Release Date: 2002-08-16
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Sexual Content, Nudity, Profanity)
Genre: DRAMA
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1