"Blue Crush" is a film that's flawed, uses cliches and is often predictable. Yet, I often loved the movie, which rises above the material thanks to strong performances and perfect cinematography. The film stars Kate Bosworth ("Remember The Titans") as Anne Marie, a former surfing champion who was sidelined when she hit her head after a crash and nearly drowned. Suffering from flashbacks to the incident (which are shown and will definitely make anyone cringe), she hasn't been able to get back into the strongest set of waves yet.
On land, Anne Marie has found herself the mother figure of a group of girls that includes similarly-aged Eden (Michelle Rodriguez), Lena (Sanoe Lake, a Hawaiian local and surfer) and her own sister, Penny (Mika Boorem). Anne Marie, Lena and Eden work at the local hotel as maids, cleaning up after people and nearly getting caught when they try on a woman's outfits that were laying around the room. When they come upon the utterly disgusting rooms of a visiting football team though, enough is enough. When Anne Marie goes out to the beach to confront Leslie (Faizon Love), she gets fired.
Without a job and forced to find money to pay the rent, Anne Marie reconsiders an offer by the team's quarterback to give him and some of the other players surfing lessons. As it turns out, they're not such bad guys after all and Anne Marie, with co-teachers Penny, Eden and Lena, get along with them pretty well. Anne Marie even falls for the quarterback, but she finds herself having to have to choose between romance and the upcoming "Pipe Masters" surfing competition where, if she does well, it could mean a sponsorship deal.
Between opening and closing, "Blue Crush" attempts to cover several little subplots and does so with varying degrees of success. Eden's attempt to push Anne Marie towards the waves is nicely played, thanks to Rodriguez's strong portrayal of a not entirely well-developed character. Less interesting is Anne Marie's attempt to keep her little sister away from parties and in school. While certainly the right thing to do, there's only a few scenes of this and we really never understand what makes the younger sister want to rebel.
The performances are all very good, although Bosworth certainly surprised me. While not an award-worthy (although maybe MTV award-worthy) performance, the actress shows great presence and sweetness. There are a few scenes pre-wave in the water where Bosworth must portray the character's fears and excitement in her eyes and expressions and she does so quite wonderfully. Most importantly, she plays the character in a compelling and realistic enough manner that, by the time the competition rolls around, I was really rooting for the character, not looking at my watch to see how much time is left in the picture.
The other star of the movie is the cinematography. David Hennings (along with Don King, who reportedly worked on the film, but doesn't seem to be listed in the credits) creates some of the most remarkable images of surfing ever captured on camera, making me almost wish this was an IMAX picture, instead. There are a couple of moments towards the end of the picture where the characters ride through the pipe (under the curl of the wave) that is certainly one of the most remarkable of the movie's many outstanding visuals. These are really captures of a pure perfect moment of freedom. There are other scenes in the movie that use slow-motion to capture the power of the enormous waves, while other moments in the movie manage to put the viewer underwater, looking up as the waves crash overhead.
The film manages to combine stunning visuals with equally impressive sound design. Sound designer Claude Letessier's excellent work really brings the audience into the middle of the crashing waves. At least at the theater I saw the film in, the surrounds were working overtime throughout the film.
Overall, "Blue Crush" manages to succeed because, while it's occasionally predictable and some storylines aren't fully explored, it creates characters that are genuinely likable and determined to succeed. Aside from boasting good performances and amazing visuals, "Blue Crush" is a movie with a lot of heart and it won me over.
Note: Before the movie starts, the DVD plays a trailer for a straight-to-video sequel to the cheerleading film "Bring It On", called "Bring It On...Again". This is, quite possibly, the worst trailer I've ever seen.
VIDEO: "Blue Crush" is presented by Universal in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is generally an excellent transfer, but suffers from a few unwelcome flaws that likely could have been avoided. Sharpness and detail are excellent, as fine detail is often apparent throughout the film, while the picture continously appears crisp, with no softness.
There is, however, one particularly troubling flaw with the image - the presence of edge enhancement. While not consistently present or always too terribly distracting when visible, there were several scenes throughout the film where the mild edge enhancement took away from what was otherwise a gorgeous presentation. A few little traces of pixelation appeared in a couple of the dimly-lit scenes, but this was hardly an issue.
The film's warm, bright color palette was beautifully rendered, appearing well-saturated and vibrant, with no smearing or other issues. The edge enhancement that was occasionally present was disapointing, but the presentation was otherwise quite attractive.
SOUND: "Blue Crush" is presented by Universal in Dolby Digital 5.1. The DTS soundtrack that was apparently to be included with this release has been dropped in favor of French and Spanish Dolby 5.1 presentations, as the DTS presentation is nowhere to be found. That disapointment aside, I found the Dolby Digital presentation to be as winning as it was theatrically, as the film's soundtrack aggressively uses the surrounds during the most intense sequences and often has the rear speakers providing strong ambience during the quieter scenes. The film even opens with an impressive sequence, as Anne Marrie's nightmare that opens the film has the surrounds working overtime to provide effects and even some voices. Although this is not an offical EX mix, enabling back surround does add to several scenes in the film, offering greater envelopment the surfing sequences and a few other moments.
Audio quality was excellent, as the music throughout the soundtrack sounded rich and bassy, while dialogue and sound effects were crisp and clear. Although I was disapointed with the lack of DTS (after hearing this film's soundtrack theatrically, the opportunity to hear it in DTS on DVD seemed like it could be terrific), I was certainly satisfied with the Dolby track.
Commentaries: "Blue Crush" includes a commentary from director John Stockwell, son Casper Stockwell and producer Rick Dallago and one from actresses Sanoe Lake (who arrives later on in the track), Kate Bosworth and Michelle Rodriguez. Stockwell does most of the talking during the first commentary track, talking intensely about working with the real surfers or locals, who can often be seen in the picture or worked behind the scenes. Stockwell also discusses trying to chase the perfect waves to film and also some of the troubles of filming in the middle of the crashing waves. The commentary is somewhat slow at times, but Stockwell generally successfully keeps the discussion moving, with only a few pauses of silence here and there. The girl's commentary isn't always terribly informative, but it's a bit more fun and lively than the other track. The three generally just react to the movie and share some of the stories that happened during filming.
Featurette: "Three Friends, One Passion" is a promotional featurette on the making of the picture. This is a fairly decent featurette, as the three actresses, director Stockwell, some of the surfing pros involved in the production and spikey-haired producer Brian Grazer discuss the surfing culture that they wanted to accurately portray in the picture, as well as the very real risks involved in surfing the kind of waves that are seen in the film. This featurette runs 14:31.
Deleted Scenes: About 18 minutes worth of deleted footage is presented, with optional commentary from director John Stockwell. I didn't really find any of the material interesting enough that I would have liked to see it back in the picture, but it was still enjoyable to see what was cut from the film. The scenes are not able to be selected on their own - they only run back-to-back.
Filming Blue Crush: This is a nearly four-minute montage of footage of the crew trying to perfect ways of filming in the middle of the surf. As someone who was fascinated by how successfully the film captured the surfers in the middle of the waves, this short piece was definitely interesting to see.
Female Surfing Revolution: This is a nearly two-minute featurette that gives a general wrap-up of women in pro surfing.
Wipeout!: A short montage of wipeouts captured by the filmmakers. In other words, "surfing outtakes". Optional commentary from director Stockwell is also included.
Surfing Outtakes ("Riding the Waves"): Split into two sections ("The Girls" and "The Guys") and with optional director's commentary on both, this section offers additional surfing footage that was cut from the picture. There's some really remarkable footage here too, so it's certainly worth watching for those who were impressed by the film's surfing photography.
Skateboarding: Outtakes from the skateboarding scene, with optional commentary from director Stockwell.
Blue Crush Promo: This is a short promo of footage that was cut together to show to the studio early on. Optional commentary from director Stockwell is also available.
Surfing Fashion: A short featurette (kind of a promo, really), this has actress Sanoe Lake and a Billabong representative going into one of the stores and showing the kind of clothes surfers wear.
The World of Surfing: A text area with various information about the sport.
Also: Lenny Kravitz, "If I Fall in Love" music vid; production notes; theatrical trailer (Dolby Digital 5.1); cast/crew bios.
Final Thoughts: "Blue Crush" is an entertaining, enjoyable comedy/drama that combines beautiful photography and strong performances. Universal has provided a great DVD edition, with fine video quality and strong audio, along with a lot of supplements. Recommended.
The Film ***