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Steven Isaac

Movie Review

Serious surfing has always been mostly a guy thing. And movies about surfing are usually about guys. Oh, sure, they’ve always had lots of girls on the beach. Just not riding the waves. (Does Gidget really count?) But in the past couple of years, the number of female surfers jumped 120 percent. Along with beachwear companies like Roxy, Blue Crush is cashing in on girl wave power.

Oahu girl Anne Marie was a junior girls surfing champ, but dropped out of the competitive circuit when she almost died underwater (flashbacks show her head smashing into a chunk of coral). Now she’s fighting both an internal battle (she’s scared) and an external one (physical training) to get herself back into the game and back on top. Looming just a few days away is the Pipe Master’s competition on a stretch of beach on Oahu’s North Shore that is so dangerous girls have never before been allowed to compete. Her whole life has led to this moment of truth. . . . And then Matt shows up. To support their surfing lifestyle, Anne Marie and her two best friends, Eden and Lena, work as maids at a luxurious resort hotel. When an NFL team checks in, quarterback Matt offers Anne Marie $1,000 for a week’s worth of surfing lessons. The pair hit it off (on the waves and in bed) immediately. But their romance is interfering with her training, and time is critical. What is a girl to do?

positive elements: Anne Marie trains hard to be the best athlete she can be. She and her friends also hold down respectable jobs to support themselves (unfortunately, they reveal their immaturity by goofing off and trying on hotel guests’ clothing while cleaning rooms). Abandoned by both her mother and father, Anne Marie raises her 14-year-old sister, Penny. Her “parenting” skills leave much to be desired, but she clearly loves her sister.

sexual content and nudity: Bikinis are standard issue. Not that one expects more modest attire on a Hawaiian beach. Anne Marie dons an extremely low-cut evening gown. Penny’s exclamation, “I can see your boobs!” pretty much sums it up. The girls are seen dressing and undressing in several scenes (down to underwear and swimsuits). But Blue Crush gives equal time to women and men. Guys flaunt their bodies for the cameras right along with the girls. A very large football player wears what Penny calls “nut-huggers.” One scene has him bouncing his barely-covered privates up and down to entertain a crowd. Anne Marie holds out for all of one night before sleeping with Matt. Onscreen, the pair kisses and caresses, but naked bodies under the covers the morning after indicate what really happened. Matt unties Anne Marie’s bikini top, but she never exposes her breasts. The next morning she showers (alone) and the cameras peer in through the glass at her back. Sexually-themed banter, innuendoes, double entendres and jokes are common. At a party Penny attends, couples freak dance, grinding their bodies together.

violent content: Anne Marie hits her head on underwater coral. A brief struggle between Anne Marie and a male surfer ends in a broken surfboard and bruised egos. Matt and Anne Marie get into a scuffle with a bunch of locals who are mad that an outsider (Matt) is using “their” beach. Powerful waves injure surfers.

crude or profane language: Quite a few s-words (almost 30) and 20-or-so milder profanities. Exclamatory uses of the Lord’s name raises the tally to 65. The film’s hip-hop soundtrack contains bleeped f-words.

drug and alcohol content: Alcohol flows freely at the wild party Penny attends. It’s also intimated that Penny has been sneaking smokes and stealing beer from the fridge. An empty bottle of champagne is a reminder of Matt and Anne Marie’s tryst.

other negative elements: Gross post-party hotel room messes (including excrement, vomit and a used condom) are shown. Anne Marie gives up and leaves Penny at a party when Penny throws a fit.

conclusion: A surfer friend of mine tells me that “no female in her right mind (except perhaps a professional stripper) would surf in the skimpy bikinis worn in [Blue Crush], especially in surf that size. They’d lose it the first time they’re hit by a big wave.” Indeed, USA Weekend asked star Kate Bosworth if she ever lost a bikini piece while shooting the film. “Yeah!” she replied. “It’s inevitable.” It’s also inevitable that Hollywood finds it difficult to make a surfing movie without exploiting sex in some way, shape or form. Bruce Brown’s surfing movies of the late ‘50s and ‘60s (Surf Crazy, The Endless Summer, et al) may be the only movies ever made on the subject that didn’t go out of their way to titillate moviegoers in the process.

So the bikinis didn’t surprise me when it came time to screen Blue Crush. But one thing that did was the film’s painstaking depiction of the dangers surrounding big wave surfing. Extensive underwater camera work showing the ferocity of the water, along with Anne Marie’s previous near-death ride serve as stern reminders to us landlubber wannabes: Stay away! Don’t even begin to contemplate trying this unless you’re a professional. And even then, you’d better have your life insurance paid up.

It’s too bad other dangerous activities presented in the movie (sex and wild partying) aren’t given as much scrutiny. Surfing is an amazing and challenging sport—it shouldn’t have to always be linked to sex. Best to avoid this set of waves and keep your eyes peeled for better ones on the horizon. Or wait for another Bruce Brown revival on Turner Classic Movies.

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Steven Isaac