Despite some beautiful shots of the Northern California coast, Chasing Mavericks turns the life of Jay Moriarity into a watered down melodrama.

Surfing fans, and those who like to surf the coast near Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay, will find some enjoyment in the film’s photography. Chasing Mavericks is based on the life of surfer Jay Moriarity (here played by Jonny Weston) at the age of 16 as he’s determined to surf the the big-wave surfing break Maverick’s in Half Moon Bay.

Already a great surfer at 16, Moriarity’s neighbor and reluctant mentor Frosty Hesson (Gerard Butler) tells him it’s too dangerous. However, his wife Brenda (Abigail Spencer) convinces Frosty to teach him, since the teenager will take the risk either way. The film sets up Frosty’s insecurity as a father to his real children, as well as his reluctance to be a father figure to Jay.

Jay’s father abandoned him and his alcoholic mother Kristy (Elisabeth Shue) long ago and he’s since become more of a parent to Kristy than she is to him. Of course, he finds escape from his broken home out in the ocean and unlike his friends around him who are starting to experiment with drugs and other normal high school activities, Jay appears more mature for his age and takes surfing as seriously as anything.

It’s not just that the film over dramatizes Jay’s life, and his relationships, but it’s that it has to bring every dramatic situation to a boil instead of allowing some to just simmer. What is, honestly, a story already told a thousand times, the film doesn’t find any new way in telling it. Weston and Butler do form a real bond on screen and if the film has a real strength it’s that the cast create a real rapport among themselves. Also, shooting on location creates some sense of reality. But at it’s worse it can almost feel like a Lifetime movie, pushing the melodrama over the edge.

Still, even though the ending is clear (whether or not one is familiar with the fate of Moriarity) it’s sure to bring on a few tears. It may be a film that will ring more true for the surfing community, or anyone interested in the sport, but it can still offer enough for anyone else looking to be drawn into a story about determination and triumph.

Rating: 3 out of 5

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