Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor of Filmmaker magazine. He is also a photographer: his history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images is forthcoming; previews on Twitter (twitter.com/chighostsigns) as well as daily photography on Instagram: instagram.com/raypride. Twitter: twitter.com/rayPride. (Photo: Jorge Colombo.)
Finding a good dad by riding a big wave is the theme of “Chasing Mavericks,” a coming-of-ager based on the life of a North California surfer. After his military dad went AWOL seven years ago, fifteen-year-old Jay (Jonny Weston) grows up as the man of the house. He irons his mom’s outfits, and gets her out of bed and off to work on time. He looks up to his neighbor Frosty (Gerard Butler), a surfer and roofer and a father of two girls. Jay addresses him with “sir.” They start a twelve-week training regime, “Four Pillars of a Solid Human Foundation,” to prepare for the big wave season. Jay writes three-page, typed, single-spaced essays on observation and fear, and learns to hold his breath under water for four minutes. The screenplay by Kario Salem, with story credit to the team of Jim Meenaghan and Brandon Hooper (playing a surf magazine photographer), adds indifferent filler about a sweetheart, based on the one the real Jay did marry in 2000 and who collaborated with this production. Other disposable plot material involves Jay’s co-worker at a pizza joint and some mean delinquents who deal drugs and badmouth Jay. Co-directors Curtis Hanson and Michael Apted are earnest about life lessons, yet less eloquent than the surfers in the documentaries “Riding Giants” and “Step into Liquid.” With Elisabeth Shue, Abigail Spencer, Leven Rambin, Taylor Handley, Scott Eastwood. 105m. (Bill Stamets)
“Chasing Mavericks” opens Friday.