The surfing drama “Chasing Mavericks” is an absorbing tale that illustrates the power of collaboration — onscreen and behind the camera. Screenwriter Kario Salem (“The Score”) delves into the real-life story of famous surfer Jay Moriarity (played by Jonny Weston), a longboard prodigy who learns about the mythical giant waves at Mavericks, the rocky California shoreline, and wants to conquer them.
He finds a mentor — and surrogate father in the absence of his biological dad — in “Frosty” Hesson (Gerard Butler), a veteran surfer who starts Jay on a rigorous physical and mental training regimen. Director Curtis Hanson (“L.A. Confidential”) dropped out midshoot because of health problems, and Michael Apted (who did the last “Narnia” movie) ably took up the slack.
The two share directing credit and manage to deliver a solid inspirational sports drama driven by stunning surf footage and strong performances by Butler, Weston and Elisabeth Shue as Jay’s recovering-alcoholic mom. The inspirational part becomes a letdown in the finale (when the movie tells us, as gently as possible, about Moriarity’s life after Mavericks), but Moriarity’s good-natured determination shines through.
Opens today at theaters everywhere; rated PG for thematic elements and some perilous action; 116 minutes.