2002, PG-13, 106 min. Directed by John Stockwell. Starring Kate Bosworth, Michelle Rodriguez, Sanoe Lake, Matthew Davis, Mika Boorem, Faizon Love.
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Aug. 16, 2002
Same sport (surfing), same locale (Hawaii), same gender and attire (girls in bikinis). That's about as close to Gidget as Blue Crush ever gets. In spirit it's more an amalgam of MTV Sports and Endless Summer, marrying the lunatic adrenaline of the former with the religious fervor of the latter … with Gidge's holdover itty-bitty bikinis making for one rockin' menage à trois. Inspired by Susan Orlean's article “Surf Girls of Maui,” Blue Crush defies its navel-gazing marketing campaign and instead opts for a female empowerment picture that needn't explicitly sell the theme of female empowerment. These chick surfers don't have to learn to be tough -- they already are. Instead, Blue Crush homes in on an athlete in crisis. Oahu native Anne Marie (Bosworth) has some mighty big demons to overcome before she surfs in the Pipe Masters competition: She almost drowned three years ago attempting to tame the Pipeline, a particularly deadly patch of waves with jagged coral underneath. With a week to go before the big showdown, Anne Marie is still gun-shy, despite the encouragement of best friends and beach-shack roomies Eden (Rodriguez) and Lena (Lake). The three are raising Anne Marie's hellraiser sister (Boorem) together and paying the bills by cleaning tourists' trashed suites at the local luxury resort. Further distraction comes in the form of Matt (Davis), a rather slight NFL quarterback training in Hawaii who romances Anne Marie on the sideline. Topics of infinitely more interest than this obligatory romantic subplot include the clash between locals and the tourists that both feed the island and ravage it, and the thrumming machismo that accompanies surfing (and any other “extreme” sport), but that all takes a way, way backseat to the surfing. Simply put, the action footage is electrifying. The camera goes right into the curl of a wave, and then terrifyingly down under it, into the rocky reef that nearly killed Anne Marie last time out. Co-writer Lizzy Weiss and co-writer/director John Stockwell's script skimps on the technicals -- surfing newbies won't learn anything new here -- but it's tensely intoxicating all the same. The script also takes the occasional dip into hokeyness, but even that is buoyed by its ballsy leading ladies. The climactic Pipeline competition features many pro surfers, like Kate Skarratt and Layne Beachley; other pros like Megan Abubo and Rochelle Ballard doubled for the actresses in the trickier shots. Their inclusion lends a credibility to the film and confirms Anne Marie's aspirations aren't, well, just a pipe dream. Who needs to sell female empowerment when you've got proof positive paddling toward her next wave?