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'Blue Crush' proves formulas can work

August 22, 2002

I've spent a lot of space in this column trashing "formula films"

for their lack of energy, freshness or depth. Most movies in this

vein have clearly been made-by-committee and lack a strong narrative

voice or point-of-view. Well, what I learned from viewing "Blue

Crush" is this: sometimes formulas work.

"Blue Crush" in not an innovative work that tackles lofty themes

but, instead, is an unapologetic audience pleaser that gives you

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exactly what you want. It holds its head up high and dares you not to

love it.

Ann-Marie Chadwick (Kate Bosworth) is a talented, 20-something

surfer hell-bent on making her rep at an upcoming pro-competition

(something the folks of Huntington Beach might know a bit about) to

which she's been invited despite a career setback that still haunts

her. Three years earlier she nearly met a violent end when a wave

smashed her head against a Maui corral reef. Since then she's been

trying to get her head back in the game. Ann Marie has the skills,

but her confidence has gone AWOL and threatens derail her pro-career

before it even takes off.

These days, Ann-Marie lives with a surrogate family that includes

her younger sister Penny and her two best friends, Eden (Michelle

Rodriguez) and Lena. As Eden pushes her hard to strive for her

personal best, Ann-Marie worries about Penny's experimentation with

alcohol and boys (Ann-Marie's the only parent Penny has since their

mother walked out on them.) And, of course, an affair with a famed

quarterback threatens to distract her concentration, causing

Ann-Marie to question if she's just a fling or something more

meaningful.

Sound contrived? It is. What's impressive is the care the director

John Stockwell and writer Lizzy Weiss have taken in making these

characters absorbing. They're not re-creating the wheel, just giving

it a different spin (excuse the painful pun). These are characters

whom you quickly identify with and root for, which is exactly how

you're supposed to feel in a mainstream, aggressively campaigned

commercial summer feature. Much effort was made to make the dialogue

sound natural. I completely bought the relationships in this movie.

"Blue Crush" knows the world it depicts. The social aspects of the

surfing community make for some interesting scenes, including a messy

fight catalyzed by a non-local using a locals-only beach; Ann-Marie

making a ritual surf report call before sunrise; surfers who sleep on

the beach because they can't afford rent but still live and die by

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