Surfer, Dude
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Surfer, Dude

DVD

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Of all the possible genres that can be used in a movie the comedy comes in the widest variety of forms. It can be a sarcastic look at life or a silly romp through fantasy. There are farces and romance all aimed at making us laugh. This is something people in every society and culture have in common; the need to laugh. This format can also be target to just about any demographic from little kids to adults. Of late there has been an increase in a relatively new type of humorous flicks; the ‘R’ rated comedy. Although this type of film started out with raunchy material prompting the restrictive rating it has been all but taken over by juvenile flicks that pander to the most puerile of interest. There is a standard playbook for the manufacture of such a film. You need a bunch of truly stupid characters and plenty of jokes concerned with alcohol and drug abuse and, of course sex. The fans of this particular genre are typically high school and college aged guys. Don’t expect to see too many female members of the audience; movies like this just don’t have the elements that normally appeal to the feminine sensibilities. One of the latest offerings for this type of movies is ‘Surfer, Dude’ by S.R. Bindler. It is basically a vanity flick to highlight the favorite pastimes of lead actor Matthew McConaughey. It is also a reasonable bet that the young men who will laugh the loudest while watching this movie will be under the influence of copious quantities of alcohol or some other psychotropic substances. Under the circumstances this may be the preferred way to watch since it does appear that a similar state of inebriation was pervasive among the cast and crew of this flick. The budget of the movie was reported to be about $6 million and after viewing it one has to wonder just how much of that went to meeting a guy in the back of a alley to obtain the biologically active incentives that seem to be entrenched in this film. It opened with a limited release in September of this year and it is doubtful that the movie was able to recoup the expenditures in the theater. Like many movies of this genre it could do better in the home theater market where people don’t have to see you in public on line for a showing. To this end Anchor Bay has released a DVD and Blu-ray version of the flick.

It took a pair of writers to provide the script for this flick; S.R. Bindler and Cory Van Dyke. This is Bindler’s first time up as a screen writer but Van Dyke has one previous film back in 1997, ‘Patriot Son’ which was a taut and effective drama. It is obvious that they were writing a screenplay that would make the most of the interests of McConaughey. He is in virtually every scene and there is little hold the story together because of this. The fundamental premise is actually an interesting one. It is concerned with a professional surfer who entered the sport for the sheer fun of catching the big waves and riding them to the beach. When his professional contract is sold to an unscrupulous manager the surfer dude finds himself drawn into the merchandizing end of his sport. This is against everything he holds dear about the purity of surfing. This concept was taken in a different direction by the recent HBO one season wonder ‘John from Cincinnati’. Where that series took the moral dilemma to the existential diction here the same subject is played only for silliness. More could have been done to explore the intriguing plot. This is a story of a dream forced into reality and the destruction of a man’s dream and feelings about a sport he loves. Disillusionment like this is a great idea and the writers had something workable to start with. Unfortunately they were not given the opportunity to take this story in the direction it should have gone. Surfing has been described as one of the purest sports around. Devotees of it have a spiritual scene and a strong connection to nature when riding atop a big wave. All of that is lost here has the nobility of surfing has been reduced to a setting for mindless jokes.

S.R. Bindler also directed this flick. His previous experience was in 1997 with a documentary called ‘Hands on a Hard Body: The Documentary’. This was about one of those contests that we all have heard about where a group of people have to spend a day or two with their hand on a car in order to win it. Here there is very little to help develop or demonstrate Bindler’s talent as a director. The piece has the look and feel of a series of home movies made by someone deep in his cups. Whenever an attractive young woman passes by the action has to stop so the camera can focus on her bouncing breasts. It also appears that tops of bathing suites are in short supply in the location of this film. While there is nothing inherently wrong with a nubile bare breast it is generally a good idea to have them displayed in the context of a story instead of a way that makes it look like a product placement spot for a ‘Girl’s Gone Wild’ video. The film is all McConaughey all the time. While he has provided some excellent performances he seems to be barely acting here. It is almost impossible to think that the actor who was in such films as ‘A Time to Kill’ is appearing here as a didgeridoo playing stoned surfer. The film was made with digital cameras but there is no polish to the video. It looks like it was photographed by TMZ watching as McConaughey is romping on the beach.

McConaughey plays professional surfer Steve Addington who at his peak was one of the leading surfers in the world. His contract is sold to a money hungry sponsor Eddie Zarno (Jeffrey Nordling) who has decidedly different ideas for Steve’s career. For Steve all that matters are the three ‘W’s’; waves, women and weed, not necessarily in that order depending on availability. Zarno wants to put Steve in a lame rip off of MTV’s ‘Real World’ and feature him in video games. Making matters worse for Steve is the fact that the waves at his favorite spot have dried up. The surf is flat offering no chance for the ride he so desperately needs. Thrown into the mix is a rival surfer, Lupe La Rosa (Ramon Rodriguez) who is out to take the last shred of financial security away from Steve.

The film is so laid back that it is difficult to muster any sense of urgency or trouble. The main character is too stoned to fully engage the predicament that he is in although he is worried about an end to the money coming in on a regular basis. The movie drifts along like a lost surfboard on a calm ocean.

This film is sure to hit with the target audience but if you are rational, sober and grown up it really will not float your boat. Ironically the behind the scenes featurette was more engaging than the film. It showed that the cast and crew did have a lot of fun making this movie. As surf movies go this one doesn’t live up to the talent associated with it.

Posted 11/28/08

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