Chasing Mavericks (Blu-ray)
Directed by Curtis Hanson, Michael Apted
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 116 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish, French
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish
MSRP: $ 29.99
Release Date: February 26, 2013
Review Date: February 26, 2013
When his father leaves the family flat in Santa Cruz in 1987, the young Jay Moriarity (Cooper Timberline as the young Jay, Jonny Weston as the teenaged Jay) seems rudderless especially with a mother (Elisabeth Shue) sporting an alcohol problem and a tendency to lose her job. But the boy hero worships neighborhood surfing legend Frosty Hesson (Gerard Butler), and by age 15, he’s stalking Frosty to see him sneaking off to surf the amazing swells at Mavericks, a secluded area about an hour from home. He begs Frosty to take him under his wing so he can teach him to ride the big waves, and Frosty, after prodding by loving wife Brenda (Abigail Spencer), agrees to train the lad if he’s willing to undergo the unexpectedly rigorous twelve-week regimen he knows will be necessary to have any chance of success when El Nino hits California.
The screenplay by Kario Salem from a story by producers Jim Meenaghan and Brandon Hooper is most successful in the pseudo father-son bond that grows strong between Frosty and his ever-polite and respectful charge Jay. In detailing the extended physical and mental assignments Frosty gives Jay to build up his mind and body for the challenges ahead, the bond is kinetic and most convincing, and the script only falters when that interesting relationship is interrupted by moments concerning Jay’s best friend (Devin Crittenden) who’s dealing drugs on the side or the girl (Leven Rambin) he’s loved from afar since childhood and who now, while older than Jay, seems sometimes to be freezing him out. These scenes aren’t of themselves uninteresting but because they aren’t given the kind of development they need to serve a real purpose, they tend to draw the movie to an unreasonable length while remaining unsatisfactorily explored to warrant their inclusion. The film finds its real inspiration in the magisterial surfing sequences which pit the men and their boards traversing forty-to-fifty foot waves in awe-inspiring footage that seems unmatched in other films where surfing has played a role. With direction begun by Curtis Hanson and after an illness taken up by Michael Apted, the footage is wonderfully put together into a seamless whole and, in one especially clever bit when Jay first rides his El Nino wave (unsuccessfully), captured in actual photographs which made him known around the world at age 16.
Gerard Butler has remarkable chemistry with both Jonny Weston’s Jay and Abigail Spencer’s Brenda, and his big presence is a great boon to the film throughout. Jonny Weston captures the real-life joie de vivre of the actual Jay Moriarity and sells the surfing scenes as if he’s really the one cresting those mammoth breakers. Elisabeth Shue is generally wasted in the small role of Jonny’s troubled mom who suddenly snaps back to life right before his big day with no explanation furnished by the script. As the important women in the lives of their men, Abigail Spencer and Leven Rambin do fine with limited material. Spencer’s absence is especially felt once she leaves the film. As the local bully who eggs Jay on constantly and is a factor in the town drug trade, Taylor Handley gives a fairly one-note performance though it's effective for his purpose in the movie.
The film’s 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully delivered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. The imagery is generally quite outstanding with only a few soft shots likely necessitated by difficult camerawork during some of the riskier surf stunts. Contrast has been expertly applied resulting in excellent color representation and accurate flesh tones. Black levels are also very, very good with excellent shadow detail. The film has been divided into 28 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 sound mix does its most impressive work in the many surfing sequences which dot the picture. With waves crashing and thundering all around, the expanded back channels and the LFE channel give one the sense of being in the midst of the ocean at its most turbulent. Chad Fischer’s driving music score gets a thorough placement through the soundstage, and dialogue has been well recorded and has been placed in the center channel. If only the ambience of the other areas of Jay’s life (school, pizza parlor) were as well represented as the surf scenes, this would be a reference audio mix.
The audio commentary is by co-director Michael Apted and producers/writers Jim Meenaghan and Brandon Hooper. The five-year journey to bring Jay Moriarity’s story to the screen gets a thorough discussion, and since Apted didn’t come on board until after the movie was cast and production started, he asks numerous interesting questions of the two producers which makes the commentary a really intriguing one.
All of the bonus material is presented in 1080p.
There are five deleted scenes which can be viewed individually or in one 5 ¾-minute grouping.
“Surf City” allows Jim Meenaghan and Brandon Hooper along with actors Gerard Butler, Jonny Weston, and Leven Rambin and many of the consultants on the film to discuss the water culture of Santa Cruz where the story takes place and where the movie was filmed. It runs 10 ½ minutes.
“Shooting Waves” features Jim Meenaghan and Brandon Hooper along with cinematographer Bill Pope discussing how it took eight months to film all of the surfing sequences using sometimes as many as twelve cameras. Then J.D. Streett discusses the special effects work of shooting mock surfing in the studio so faces could be grafted onto the stunt surfers to give the appearance of the actors actually doing the surfing (though both did do some of the surfing scenes themselves). This runs 10 ¾ minutes.
“Live Like Jay” gives a brief biography of Jay Moriarity with real footage of the champion surfer and comments from the real Frosty Hesson and Jay’s wife Kim as well as others who knew and loved him. There is also information about the Jay Moriarity Foundation charity that carries on after his death. This runs 10 ¾ minutes.
“Surfer Zen” interviews surfing consultants and film stunt surfers Brock Little, Grant Washburn, Greg Long, Peter Mel, and Zach Wormhoudt who talk about the spiritual side of surfing and also describe the very close call star Gerard Butler had while training. This lasts 10 ¼ minutes.
The theatrical trailer runs 2 ½ minutes.
There are promo trailers for Won’t Back Down and Crooked Arrows.
4/5 (not an average)
A genuinely heartwarming if overlong look at how a champion surfer was steered toward his goal, Chasing Mavericks is an enjoyable, life-affirming drama. Excellent video and audio and informative bonus features extend the value of the Blu-ray release. Recommended!