As usual, this is my review of this week’s selection. I can only assume this weeks choice is an attempt to cash in on Zombieland’s popularity, both films featuring as they do one Woody Harrelson. Let’s take a look at Surfer, Dude! (Yeah, i know. Hey, i didn’t choose it…).
The surfer dude of the title is Steve Addington (Matthew McConaughey). The Tony Hawks of surfing, Addington has just returned from a round the world journey catching the best waves on the planet. He comes back to find all is not well, however. He has no money left, his manager’s lawn mower business is failing, and Addingtons sponsors have sold up, meaning his image rights have transferred to new owner, ex-surfer Eddie Zarno (Jeffrey Nording). Zarno is in the process of putting together a fully-immersive surfing simulator called Free Wave. He is also running a Real World reality-style tv show, with the world’s greatest surfers living together in a house. Already signed up is Latino heartthrob, Lupe La Rosa (Ramon Rodriguez), amongst others.
Addington however doesn’t believe in contracts, and has no interest in reality tv or video games. He just wants to ride the waves. But with Zarno using every underhand trick in the book to try and force Addington to sign, and a record wave drought across the coast, there are a lot of things weighing against him, harshing his mellow. Going on a weed and women fast until the waves come back, Addington also finds this resolve threatened, when he meets east coast business woman Danni Martin (Alexie Gilmore). Can he continue to rebel against the commercialism of today’s society, or will he be forced to sell his soul to the man.
Surfer, Dude doesn’t start off badly. The idea of a spiritual man bucking against modern society could have been interesting. A comedy about surfing’s biggest star locked in a house with arrogant young upstarts could have been amusing. In fact, there are several plot threads that could have been picked up to make an interesting movie. Instead, Surfer, Dude paddles about and lets the big waves crash by. It’s no exaggeration when i say nothing happens in this movie. We follow Addington as he smokes weed, talks spiritual nonsense with his stoner friends, and looks wistfully out to sea, desperate for an ocean breeze to pick up.
The scenes involving Zarno’s attempts to pressure him into towing the line are intermittent and half-hearted. Harrelson (wisely) goes AWOL for the middle part of the film. Not comedy, not drama, it just doesn’t know what it wants to be. Four writers are credited for the screenplay, never a good sign, and it shows.
The biggest problem i had with Surfer… is that i didn’t find the protagonist the least bit likeable, something the story hinges on. Particularly considering his presence in nearly every scene. The whole idea is that Addington has no interest in technology or commercialism, he wants to be one with the wind. However, he’s just come back from a round the world trip, via commercial airline flights, paid for by his previous sponsors, to surf on his board, again paid for by his sponsors. It’s hypocritical. Added to that, he’s tapping up his manager for cash, a man clearly struggling to support his family, and isn’t prepared to do anything in return. Worst of all, in the end the moral of the story seems to be, if you stick to your guns, and sleep with the right woman, it’ll all be sorted out for you. There’s just too much contradiction between the sentiment and the execution.
It’s hard to believe McConaughey, so good in Amistad and A Time To Kill, has fallen so low. But on evidence, this actually looks to be somewhat of a personal project for him. He’s an executive producer, and the part of a laid back, spiritual stoner dude seems taylor-made for the naked player of the bongo drums. In fact, he even indulges in some nude musical instrument action here too. The only real spark comes from Rodriguez’s La Rosa. Saddled with the poorly written comedy relief in this year’s Revenge Of The Fallen, he suffers from a similar fate here. However the arrogant, brash upstart gives him a much better character to play with, and he plays it with gusto in the criminally few scenes he’s given. If the movie had focused a lot more on the rivalry between La Rosa and Addington, it would have been much better for it.
Watching on an ipod touch, i found myself easily distracted by the comings and goings on the train. A poorly written, badly executed mess of a film, Notable only for a great performance by star of the future Rodriguez. Avoid, avoid, avoid.
Surfer, Dude is available for rental on iTunes for 99p until Midnight Monday 12th October. It’s also available on DVD.