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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

SURFER, DUDE -- DVD review by porfle

SURFER, DUDE (2008) is one of those films that isn't exactly "good" as much as it is "good-natured." Not particulary well-made, but somewhat pleasant, easygoing, stupid--in other words, a painless way to waste and hour and a half.

Matthew McConaughey plays famous surfer Steve Addington, who lives only to surf. He supports this lifestyle via celebrity endorsements, with the help of his perpetually-stoned manager Jack (Woody Harrelson). When a business deal puts his contract in the hands of ex-surfer Eddie Zarno (Jeffrey Nordling), who has sold out and become a money-grubbing TV and videogame executive, Steve (or rather, "Add" as he's known to his friends and fans) is expected to participate in the development of a virtual-reality videogame while also joining the cast of a sleazy reality TV show in which celebrity surfers live in a beach house filled with half-naked babes.

Add balks at such soulless activities and spurns Zarno's offer, preferring to stay in his tiny beach hut and spend his days getting high and surfing with his bros. Unfortunately, a wave drought of epic proportions has just hit the California coast, turning the entire oceanfront into a giant placid lake for weeks on end. While fasting and praying to the surf gods for some waves, he falls in love with former Zarno employee Danni (Alexie Gilmore) and fights to regain his good name after Zarno releases a doctored video which falsely depicts him badmouthing surfers as "lame."

It took McConaughey and his associates seven years to get this story in front of the cameras, but it's so slight and so casually put together that you might wonder what took them so long. Storywise, it never really builds up to much. The dialogue isn't particularly funny, and Add's running buddies are a rather uninteresting bunch of ne'er-do-wells. Some of the shots are pretty nice, and the scenes in Zarno's decadent reality-show funhouse are well designed, but much of SURFER, DUDE looks as artlessly zoned-out as most of its characters--I suspect the filmmakers were smoking just as much weed as the actors.

McConaughey himself can't decide whether he wants to play Add as a lovable doofus or Mr. Cool--he often comes off as a Marlboro Man-type with a joint hanging out of his mouth instead of a cigarette. What the character really needed was a touch of Sean Penn's "Jeff Spicoli" from FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH, only older and a tad more wizened. Or maybe he should've been played by Harrelson, who seems better suited for it. As Add's manager, Woody does provide the film with its brighter moments.

Alexie Gilmore is likable as Danni, while Sarah Wright, as her bubbly blonde girlfriend Stacey, is cute as a button. Gorgeous K.D. Aubert lends plenty of sex appeal as April May, whom Zarno uses to try and lure Add over to the dark side. If I were the editor, I'm sure I could've managed to shoehorn her rather stimulating shower scene in there somewhere, but you'll have to check out the deleted scenes if you want to see it. Zarno himself is portrayed with sufficient sleaze by Jeffrey Nordling. In cameo roles, Willie Nelson grins his way through the part of Farmer Bob (I'll give you one guess what his main crop is), while Scott Glenn, looking particularly scary here, appears briefly as Add's surfing mentor.

Speaking of surfing, there's surprisingly little of it in SURFER, DUDE. The wave drought begins early on, and only in the last couple of minutes do we see some halfhearted surfing footage which is hardly more impressive than Greg Brady's watery exploits in the Hawaii episodes of "The Brady Bunch." Some dialogue is inserted here and there to convey Add's reverence for the sport and the lifestyle, but it's rather perfunctory.

I actually became a little irritated with his character after awhile, baffled by his dogged refusal to easily earn heaping gobs of cash in exchange for doing a few simple things like performing motion-capture moves for Zarno's surfing videogame and spending a few weeks in a luxurious beach house filled to the gills with promiscuous bikini girls. I mean, dude--lighten up. You're killin' me here.

Like I said, though, the movie does provide a certain amount of mindless fun along with some dandy eye candy. (Not counting the obligatory McConaughey naked shots, that is.) Ramon Rodriguez is funny as Add's nemesis, Lupe La Rosa, a bad-guy surfer who gleefully wallows in Zarno's world and manages to effectively "punk" our hero in one amusing sequence. An early scene in which Add goes through customs upon his return to the States is funny as well. And the whole movie has a certain laidback charm that is somewhat enjoyable once you've passed the point of expecting much more from it.

The DVD is 1.85:1 widescreen with Dolby Surround 5.1. McConaughey does a solo commentary which is enjoyable because he's having a good time doing it, although much of it consists of him watching the movie and forgetting to say things about it. Extras include about twelve minutes of deleted scenes (don't forget to catch K.D. Aubert's shower scene), a making-of featurette called "Surfer Dude: The Real Story" which is actually more fun than the movie, a theatrical trailer, and a 12-webisode promotional series that originally appeared on the film's website.

Definitely not one of the better films I've seen lately, SURFER, DUDE does manage to be mildly diverting in a goofy, aimless sort of way. And if you're sitting out some of that cold winter weather like I am, there are worse ways to spend some time than hanging out in Malibu watching some stoners smoke copious amounts of weed and cavort with beach girls, waves or no waves.

1 comment:

Anonymous said... wont appreciate this movie unless you surf...otherwise you dont know what its like to live simple and love the ocean and everything else is just kinda faded out.