Hungarian, English - Hearing Impaired, Commentary - English
Deleted scenes - 18 min
2 Audio commentary - Director/Producer, Lead Actors
Music video - Lenny Kravitz - "If I Could Fall in Love"
Blue Crush (2002)
R4 . COLOR . 100 mins .
M15+ . PAL
Going that way. Really fast.
Okay, this makes perfect sense. As winter’s icy grasp reaches out from the depths of Antarctica to grapple you by the throat and remind you of the sort of crap penguins have to put up with all year round, what better way to forget the fact that it’s a refrigerator out there than to turn on the heater, settle down in the comfy chair and treat yourself to a movie that’s set in Hawaii, stocked with enough sun to melt a goth and populated by spotless people in bikinis and board shorts jumping in and out of the crisp blue ocean? Sounds inviting, doesn’t it? Okay, now try and find such a movie with a story worth giving a toss about. Nope, there aren’t many.
The reason for that is, of course, that nothing much actually happens in such places. People sunbake. They mate. They swim. And they surf. Hardly the makings of a David Lynch film, needless to say. But the key teen-pleasing ingredients are all there, and it’s the surfing part that provides the best possibilities for a bit of story edge (and no, Point Break doesn’t count, as it was all rather silly). The makers of Blue Crush know this all too well, and have cheerfully thrown the lot into their surfing romance and tried, in the process, to do the seemingly impossible - make an interesting movie out of it. And at least in part, they’ve succeeded.
The sign says it all. Waves hurt.
But then, who am I to judge what makes or breaks a surfing movie? Curtis Armstrong’s snow-snorting Charles de Mar in the classic comedy Better Off Dead had simple instructions for skiing success: “Go that way, really fast. If something gets in your way, turn.” That line encapsulates 90% of this writer’s knowledge of surfing, though obviously the bit about turning is a lot harder to accomplish on a surfboard, where if something gets in your way it’s usually followed by serious injury or watery death. And right there is the drama that Blue Crush is built on. Basically, if you balance on a plank of fibreglass in the midst of a wall of water, you will undoubtedly look cool but there’s a bloody good chance that you’ll follow that up by looking decidedly dead. If these waves could do Terminator-style throwaway lines after they dump on someone we’d have an action moofie on our hands. But we digress...
The otherwise self-assured Anne Marie (Kate Bosworth) has a problem; she’s been a champion surfer since she was little, but a nasty accident involving a lump of coral and a petulant tidal wave some time ago has caused her to have flashbacks to the fear (in neato '60s pseudo-colour) and causes her to choke just at the critical moment in a surfing contest. She wants to compete in an upcoming international Pipe Masters event, but is distracted by this fear, her need to bring up her difficult little sister on her own, and the distraction of visiting football player Matt (Matthew Davis) who she promptly falls in unexpectedly gooshy love with. Suddenly her focus on the event is fading just when she needs it most. So can she conquer her fear and win the Masters?
"...and I still write my name on my wave."
Yep, there’s enough story here to fill a postage stamp, and the producers know it. Based on a magazine article by none other than Susan Orlean (yep, the very same Susan Orlean that wrote the book The Orchid Thief, which became the subject of an unusual film adaptation in, err, Adaptation), the screenplay is light on actual things happening, preferring instead to focus on the key elements - the characters (particularly Bosworth’s), the romance and, of course, the surfing. It’s an audience-pleaser aimed fairly and squarely at younger viewers, a slice of semi-inspirational fiction with loads of eye candy and a decent dose of surfing action. And in a rare moment for this genre, it actually works. For that we can thank the generally cliché-free screenplay, genuinely believable and appealing performances from the leads (especially Bosworth and newcomer Sanoe Lake; Michelle Rodriguez is also typically solid and can play this kind of role in her sleep). But the real knockouts here are the surfing sequences, which combine generous amounts of actual real surf footage with some cannily-crafted special effects. It’s jaw-droppingly photographed and excitingly edited; the Big Final Competition in these movies is usually a predictable bore, but here it’s genuinely exciting, an undeniable adrenalin rush.
If you’re looking for art, you’re holding the wrong DVD. But director John Stockwell is an experienced actor - you may remember him as Cougar in Top Gun - and he knows how to pull convincing performances out of his actors and drama out of a seemingly predictable scenario. It’s nothing groundbreaking, sure, but Blue Crush is a lot more fun than you’d think.
Layne Beachley practices for Academy Awards night.
Initially it seems odd that Stockwell would choose to shoot a film set on big, wide surf beaches in the more modest 1,85:1 ratio. But it makes sense - the thing that’s constantly emphasised is the sheer power of the waves, power derived from their height; the ratio used actually works to enhance the drama. Reproduced on DVD at that very same theatrical ratio and 16:9 enhanced, Blue Crush looks very good on DVD, losing out only slightly in the shadow detail and contrast departments during the rare darker scenes, as well as with some passing instances of excessive grain. Overall, though, this is an excellent video transfer that emphasises the bright summer atmosphere of the setting. Compressed at a decent bitrate on a dual-layer disc, there are no problems with MPEG artefacts - a remarkable achievement considering that moving water is the eternal enemy of video compression! The layer change is somewhat clunkily placed, but really there’s very little to complain about here.
If you’re 5.1 equipped, you’re in for a real treat here. From go to whoa-dude the audio here is a seriously big, immersive (har!) experience. This is one of those look-at-my-new-sound-system mixes that you can plonk your friends in the middle of and watch them go “ooh” at, no doubt about it. Using the full surround stage, the mixers spend the entire film happily throwing stuff left, right and to the back channels, with any sequence involving water putting the listener right in the middle so effectively you’re amazed to come out dry. The subwoofer, meanwhile, is put to work every time a wave pounds down on the shore, every time a car engine starts, every time a song fires up on the soundtrack, and every time someone sips a pina colada - whoomp! Okay, we made that last one up, but if you like big bass, you’re going to have angry neighbours tomorrow. The centre channel dialogue is occasionally overwhelmed by all this - it’s not as loud in the overall mix as it is in some other current movies - but it’s nothing to be overly concerned about.
The only disappointment is the lack of a DTS track - Universal has taken to providing them of late - but really, the Dolby 5.1 track sounds just fine, and it’s not like Universal haven’t crammed the disc full to the brim.
Behind you! Behind you!!!!
Following what appears to be a new policy of giving international DVD buyers the same extras as the region 1 folks get, Universal offers what looks like a vast array of bonus features on this disc. In reality, the content is somewhat less than it first appears to be, but you’ve got to give them points for trying - much bigger movies get a lot less.
For starters, there are two audio commentaries. The first is from director John Stockwell, who’s joined occasionally by his son (!) and one of the film’s many producers. Stockwell’s very conversational and easy to listen to, and offers much of interest about the production of the film both technically and dramatically. The second commentary sees actors Kate Bosworth, Michelle Rodriguez (who once again is militant about the pronunciation of her surname, just as she was on Resident Evil) and a very tardy Sanoe Lake laughing their way through the film in a decidedly lightweight - but fun - session.
A lengthy collection of deleted scenes is included, running right on 18 minutes and with optional director commentary. Many of them are understandable deletions, but as always it’s great to have them here in such quantity, especially with Stockwell’s informative commentary. Video quality, non-anamorphic and letterboxed, is reasonable.
Then there are the featurettes - and lots of them. The Making of Blue Crush is your typical EPK-style promo, Filming Blue Crush (with commentary) details some of the challenges of the shoot and shows some examples of the effects work, The Female Surfing Revolution discusses the rise of women in surfing, with comments from some of the real-life surfers who appear in the film including Australians Kate Skarratt and Layne Beachley. Wipeout (with commentary) is a reel of some of the (real) bits where something got in the surfers’ way during filming and they couldn’t turn. Riding the Waves (with commentary) offers footage of the real-life female and male surfers that appear in the movie. Skateboarding (with commentary) is a quick reel of footage of some skateboarders that were shot for the movie. Blue Crush Promo (with commentary) is the pre-production sell-it-to-the-studio reel that Stockwell used to help convince the studio to finance the film. Surf Fashion is a blatant commercial for product placement client Boomerang, and is notable only if seeing Sanoe Lake shopping is your idea of fun viewing.
Rounding out the extras, The World of Surfing is a set of text screens about - duh - surfing, which might come in handy for those who want to learn the lingo. Then there’s the tie-in music video for the fairly decent Lenny Kravitz closing-credits song, If I Could Fall in Love - preceded, gratuitously, by the TV commercial for the soundtrack album! The film’s three lead girls appear in the clip along with Lenny and his big hair. Last of all, there’s a Theatrical Trailer, non-anamorphic, letterboxed and with stereo sound. There’s also some token DVD-ROM content on the disc, but since this requires the Interactual Player to be installed we didn’t bother checking it out; no on-disc content seems to have been included.
The only extras missing from the US version are the production notes and cast/crew bios, a strange omission.
Surprisingly well made for a piece of summer fluff, Blue Crush is a much better prospect than most of its kind; if you’re looking for something to remind you of how much nicer summer is, you could do a lot worse. And if you’re in the movie’s target age bracket and spend any length of time near a surf beach, you’ll be way happy. Universal’s DVD is excellent technically, with a decent set of extras that fall short of being a truly great behind the scenes look at the movie.