***/**** Image A- Sound A+ Extras B-
starring Kate Bosworth, Michelle Rodriguez, Matthew Davis, Sanoe Lake
screenplay by Lizzy Weiss & John Stockwell, based on the article "Surf Girls of Maui" by Susan Orlean
directed by John Stockwell
by Walter Chaw Bob Marley sings "Could You Be Loved" as a quartet of surf girls in a finned vintage powder-blue ride, yellow surfboards strapped to its roof, chase the dawn to catch the perfect pipe breaking over Hawaii's sand bars and coral reefs. There is possibly no finer capsule of the adrenaline of early morning and youth in recent memory, and while Blue Crush, the movie surrounding this moment, can't sustain that feeling of hope springing eternal, what it manages is an estrogen opera so intensely feminine that it serves as the antidote (and cannier doppelgänger) to Diesel's xXx flex-a-thon.
Anne Marie (Kate Bosworth) is seven days away from a major surfing competition, where she hopes to make a return to professional competition after a near-drowning three years previous sidelined her. Because she's stricken with trepidation, her friends Eden (a typically sullen Michelle Rodriguez) and Lena (Sanoe Lake) try to guide her away from a visiting football star Matt (Matthew Davis) and towards a better mindset. For all that there is to recommend Blue Crush, the conventions of the underdog sports genre wash out along formula-etched lines as the big day approaches, delightful romantic misunderstandings blossom, and tensions rise and get resolved.
The strength of the film is clearly not in its narrative, but rather embedded in its images and subtext. Blue Crush is a meticulous allegory for a young woman coming of age without a mother figure, cycling from virgin to whore to mother as she surfs vaginal pipes on waves of menstrual deluge. The ocean is a symbol of woman from time immemorial, and Anne Marie's eventual mastery of its capricious flux suggests a pubescent sea change. Consider the trauma of an unseen mother's abandonment (on the arm of a sugar daddy, we learn) as it parallels Anne Marie's traumatizing accident at the hands of feminized nature; consider the affair with the football star as the flirtation with wifedom ("The desk clerk called me 'Mrs. Tollman' and I didn't correct him because I liked it"); and finally, consider the predictable third-act triumph (with a little help from a more experienced woman) as that abovementioned confirmation of Anne Marie's graduation into a kind of maturity. When she gets on the beach, after all, she's earned the respect of a wayward little sister (Mika Boorem) and a gaggle of little girls clamouring for an autograph from their new role model.
Blue Crush features a press of gnarly surfing footage that focuses on the visceral fear inherent in the sport rather than the Zen aspect of the pastime--shots of looming breakers surge and growl like the onset of a demonic rinse cycle, infusing the surf scenes with true jeopardy. Flashbacks to Anne Marie's accident are almost primeval in their mixing of drowning fear with blunt trauma anxiety while the action sequences in Blue Crush are unusually cogent and satisfying. The film stumbles badly in its romantic subplot that, although integral to an examination of the film as a personal feminine evolution, suggests all too much Varsity Blues told from the cheerleaders' point of view. Worse are slapstick vaudeville gross-out routines involving Matt's morbidly obese offensive linemen missing the bowl, wearing Speedos, and dancing the hula in grass skirts and coconuts. When Blue Crush relocates itself in the pitfalls of a girl becoming a woman in the middle of a limitless symbolic wash, however, it approaches something of the genuinely profound--approaches it in a way, I suspect, that surfing becomes a metaphor for the sublime in the life of the true believer. Originally published: August 16, 2002.
by Bill Chambers Universal's DVD release of Blue Crush prioritizes quantity over quality. Fans of the film will think they've hit the mother lode whilst gazing upon the list of extra features on the back cover, but in the end, as with the movie itself, what you have is a monotonous collection of montages. (The exceptions--"Three Friends, One Passion: The Making of Blue Crush" (a Spotlight on Location special that gets off to a hilarious start with excitable producer Brian Grazer declaring, "I wanted surfers of the planet to say, 'This rocks!'"), the film's trailer, cast and crew bios, production notes, and title recommendations--are hardly worth discussing.) Director John Stockwell provides optional commentary over almost every item of bonus material, starting with an 8-minute block of deleted scenes in which he charges many of the omissions with being "'Baywatch'-y." I fear he made a huge error in judgment in removing an improvised heart-to-heart between Faizon Love (running a feverish temperature off-screen) and Mika Boorem, whose obnoxious brat of a character, Penny, would've been transformed by this shining moment into a girl of soulful poise.
Five self-explanatory outtake montages follow: "Filming Blue Crush" (4 mins.); "Wipeout!" (2 mins.); "Riding the Waves," divided into two sections, girls (3 mins.) and guys (3 mins.); and "Skateboarding Montage" (2 mins.). Such pro-surfers as Kate Skarratt provide soundbites regarding "The Female Surfing Revolution" (2 mins.); "Blue Crush Promo" (3 mins.) is a mediocre trailer cut by Stockwell's editing staff to help guide Universal in the right marketing direction; and Sanoe Lake, a fresh presence I hope we see again soon, goes shopping at Billabong for "Surf Fashion"s (5 mins.). A five-part text guide that includes translations for wave nomenclature ("The World of Surfing") and the video for Lenny Kravitz's "If I Could Fall in Love," which begins with a commercial for the Blue Crush soundtrack CD, round out the supplementals.
Blessed with a phenomenal, intense Dolby Digital 5.1 soundmix that engaged me more than the movie without it could ever hope to, the picture is well presented on DVD visually and aurally. Though the 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer displays halo effects at times, it's nothing ruinous; assessing colour accuracy and the like is difficult to do as the negative was digitally graded to produce a heightened image. (Fullscreen edition sold separately.) Stockwell's dedication to verisimilitude is such that cast and crew returned to Oahu for a re-shoot of a scene set inside a gas station, he tells us in his dedicatedly informative film-length commentary. On an additional channel, the three leads (Kate Bosworth, Michelle Rodriguez, and Lake) have recorded a yakker wherein they're alternately drowned out (no pun intended) by Blue Crush and each other, and it seems to take all of ten seconds for the trio to forget that other people will eventually listen to what they're saying. A teaser for the straight-to-video Bring It On Again precedes the movie proper. Originally published: January 27, 2003.