The inspirational true-life story of 15-year-old Jay Moriarty (newcomer Jonny Weston), whose dream it was to surf Mavericks, the biggest and most hazardous waves in Northern California. Gerald Butler plays Frosty Hesson, a seasoned pro whose initial reluctance to mentor the lad (“Untrained boys don’t step in the ring with Mike Tyson”) gradually gives way under gentle pressure from his thoughtful wife, Brenda (Abigail Spenser). With two veteran directors behind the camera, one would expect something more than just Gidget Goes Walden Media, but this appears to be an example of the studio as auteur. Michael Apted (7 to 56 Up, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader) stepped in to complete the last 15 days of principal shooting after Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential, 8 Mile) withdrew from the project citing health complications from a recent heart surgery. Both men have had success working with younger actors, but even their combined talents can’t find a crest to ride in Kario Salem’s by-the-numbers script. Still, short of Frankie and Annette's beach pictures, has there ever been a badly photographed surf movie? Happily, Chasing Mavericks is no exception, thanks to cinematographers Oliver Euclid and Bill Pope, who bring you a surfside seat for all the wave crashing action, in addition to imbuing the landlocked scenes with a soft, burnished look. An okay family picture if you’re in the mood for a children’s primer on surf movies. Better yet, wait until the kid is old enough and s/he can watch Big Wednesday. Elisabeth Shue, co-starring as Jay’s alcoholic mom, appears never to have left Las Vegas. 2012.

1.0 stars

— Scott Marks

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