Directed by S.R. Bindler. Starring Matthew McConaughey, Alexie Gilmore, Woody Harrelson, Jeffrey Nordling, Sarah Wright, Scott Glenn, Willie Nelson. (2008, R, 89 min.)
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Sept. 5, 2008
From Hands on a Hard Body to an 89-minute ogling of another hard body: It boggles the mind that 11 years after his engrossing documentary about an endurance competition to win a truck in Longview, Texas, filmmaker Bindler has channeled his talents into this regrettable comedy starring McConaughey in board shorts and nothing else (and occasionally even less, as in a tongue-in-cheek – remember the bongos? – cutaway to an in-the-buff McConaughey blowing a didgeridoo). He plays surfer Steve Addington, who's like some Rousseauistic wild child – his vocabulary only extends so far as women, weed, and the almighty wave. After a successful world tour, Addington returns home to Malibu to find his management has sold him off to a slimy CEO who's keen on exploiting him in various late-Nineties-feeling schemes, such as a Real World-like reality show and as the lead character in a first-person immersion video game. Surfer, Dude looks quite lovely: Cinematographer Elliot Davis (who also shot the tangentially related – but vastly superior – Lords of Dogtown) ably works a sun-dappled Seventies surf aesthetic, though that sophistication jars with the overall crudeness of the production. The film has several seemingly endless shots of bare breasts at a pool party that might have made sense late night on Skinemax or in a Porky's film – and, really, one wishes Surfer, Dude had the same silly joie de vivre of an Eighties comedy and not this ponderous and unfunny soul-speak about surf. It simply doesn't transmit the exhilaration of the sport or the lifestyle; in fact, watching an addled Addington, his brain a terrain of scorched earth, exhale "duuuuuuude" as he's ridden by a girl right off a Hawaiian Tropic bottle, I couldn't think of a less appealing advert for the way of the surf.