You see the major movie this surfing drama could have been, cresting on the horizon like a 20-foot wall. It’s a tale about a death wish, as two based-on-real-life Californians, both dealt lousy hands, strain for personal awakening in the water. Teenage Jay (Jonny Weston) shucks off parental abandonment to wander down by the churning coast. Adult surfer Rick ‘Frosty’ Hesson (Gerard Butler) is one of those boy-men who never got the hang of fatherhood. Despite a soulful, doting wife, he doesn’t appreciate what he has at home. Jay and Frosty come together, ease a mutual ache and – just when a lesser movie would heal them – complete some kind of preordained path, the skies darkening with the unfairness of it all.
Unfortunately ‘Chasing Mavericks’ is that lesser movie, a disappointment given the past boldness of co-directors Curtis Hanson (‘LA Confidential’) and Michael Apted (the documentary series ‘Up’, tinged with life’s regrets). Too much time is spent on the conventional, rousing gestures of a ‘Karate Kid’-like training period. Like a blonde totem, a gorgeous girl waits on the sidelines for Jay to rise to the romantic occasion. Meanwhile, Frosty’s kids get tucked in more often and everybody grows up a little. The film wants to be inspiring, when it might have been cosmic. Tossing boats and dreamers, the huge waves perform beautifully.