The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

November 28, 2012

‘Chasing Mavericks’: lost among the waves

By Roger Thomas for the SNAP

Wednesday, November 28, 2012 — From the first of November all the way to the end of December and into January every year there is a rush at the theaters. It is the holiday season, it is awards season and the studios are actively releasing movies for three reasons: to make money, win awards or in the best-case scenario, do both. This season always produces casualties: films which never find the audience they deserve.  

“Chasing Mavericks” is one of those films that got lost in the waves and tides of a very busy season at the cinema. Many times this happens to films that deserve to get lost and films that should sink to the bottom of the box office. However, other times, it is unfortunate because the film actually deserves to ride the surf to success. I will go on record to say that “Chasing Mavericks” should have stayed afloat longer and most definitely should have made a bigger splash.  

“Mavericks” had a huge ad campaign. I must have seen the previews two or three dozen times in the theater and many more times at home. The film had a $20 million production budget and opened in 2,030 theaters. At the time I am writing this review, the film has been released for 26 days, it has earned $5,677,954 and is ranked 129 in ticket sales among all the films thus far released in 2012. That is not a stellar performance.

So, in an effort to encourage my readers to seek out the film, or at least place it on their Netflix queue, here is a short review of “Chasing Mavericks.”

First, this is a true story and it is a remarkable one. I have written many times and will say again, I like all kinds of films, those based on true stories and those based on fiction. I even enjoy a thought-provoking documentary. When a dramatic film is based on fact, and the story is as startling as “Chasing Mavericks,” it moves me in a unique way. I became involved in this story and a part of my emotions were based on the truth of the narrative.

Second, though the film is formulaic, it ultimately rises above the formula. There is a student and mentor in the film. All film fans have seen this formula over and over again. Yoda and Luke, Mr. Miyagi and Daniel, Morpheus and Neo, and the lists go on and on. That is also the formula for “Chasing Mavericks.” Except the story adds unexpected twists that do not ultimately alter the greater plot, but do offer a break from the rote storytelling. I do not know if these twists are based on historical fact or not, but I know the film is strengthened by the telling of these events.

Third, there are some breathtaking shots of surfing in this film that makes one wonder what is CGI and what is real. I have reached the point in life where there are many things I will never do. Surfing is on that list. The surfing in this film, for someone like me, is beyond impressive. And again whether the film shows real surfing or not, it is based on a true story of a 15-year-old surfer who did awe-inspiring things.

Finally, the last 20 minutes of this film are amazing. I knew nothing of “Maverick’s” story that I had not seen in the previews. I do not want to offer anything about the finale except to say it is stunning, surprising, thrilling and joyous but not necessarily in that order.   

“Chasing Mavericks” is not one of the best films of the year, but it deserved more attention than it received. Maybe, just maybe, a few of my readers will help this film rise up to the top and surf once more.