The Endless Summer II
1994, PG, 109 min. Directed by Bruce Brown. Starring Robert “Wingnut” Weaver, Patrick O'Connell.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., June 10, 1994
This movie's spectacular cinematography and awe-inspiring surfboard feats are so breathtaking that you needn't be a surfing nut to get stoked on The Endless Summer II. A follow-up to Bruce Brown's original 1966 travelogue-documentary about the then-nascent sport of surfing, the movie is as much a statement about innovations in the art of filmmaking as innovations in the sport itself. The original was shot with very little money and grainy, hand-held, 16mm equipment. Twenty-eight years later, the budget is much bigger and the hardware is state-of-the-art. Incredible underwater shots and camerawork that follow surfers into the curls of the waves astonish in their proximity and often cause the viewer to wonder just how the shot was accomplished. Like the original, the sequel follows two surfers, here Wingnut Weaver and Pat O'Connell, as they travel around the world in search of awesome waves. It is accompanied by Brown's voice-over narration that is both informative, droll, and laid-back. We learn about the changeover from long boards to short boards, the new materials used in surfboard construction, the advent of the boogie board, and the realities of the pro circuit. Comparisons between the present condition of beaches and how they appeared when first visited in 1966 are frequently illuminating. Also included are some extraneous, though pleasantly interesting, shots of surf spots throughout the world that were not visited by our two travelers (one is our area's own Schlitterbahn). But most riveting are the action shots -- the nimble, face-in-the-spray images that make it nearly as much fun being a watcher rather than a doer. Not quite as successful are the “on land” sequences in which Wingnut and Pat interact with their hosts and the oddities of foreign customs. The pair's great surfboarding talents are only matched in scale by their cultural crudity. I found it insulting to watch them gawking at a topless beach in France, as well as when they act shocked to get a plate full of snails after ordering escargot in a restaurant where they know no French; they unintentionally demean a black South African surfer, generalize about the traits of Costa Ricans and Australians, and make light of some traditional Balinese rituals. It's clear these dudes were meant to surf; as landlubbers they are a cultural backwater. The experience of watching Endless Summer II is much like looking at the vacation pictures of a friend (who happens to be a great photographer). Some of it is fascinating to see, some of it is fun to hear about, but inevitably, you end up with a few earfuls more than you bargained for.