What do I expect when I sit down to watch a surf film?
Well, bear in mind that I was raised on Annette Funicello films like BEACH BLANKET BINGO and the music of The Beach Boys.
Far more recently, I've been very pleasantly surprised by the countercultural drift of the documentary SURFWISE and the feature film SOUL SURFER. In this ultra-image-conscious and commoditized age, it appears that the surfing community is taking the reins of its self image, and making sure (to a degree) that what appears onscreen bears some positive and constructive resemblance to the values it actually espouses.
Now, that having been said... when the cover of BLUE CRUSH 2 featured the artificially elongated torsos of its three female leads, I was frankly expecting something akin to a Funicello variation on TURISTAS—a rather hedonistic tour of South African beaches that would (cheerfully) manage to avoid dead bodies and sadistic torture. Call me a pessimist.
But like SOUL SURFER, BLUE CRUSH 2 is partly sponsored by, well, surfing gear sponsors, and they are naturally most eager to protect a certain image. It's not squeaky clean—surfing, after all, being a particular brand of rebellion—but it is concerned primarily with community, with nature, and being, at the end of the day, pretty laid back. The film also features a number of international professional surfing stars in speaking roles and as stunt doubles.
Synopsis The storyline in this sequel (I confess to having missed BLUE CRUSH) concerns Dana, a young California surfer whose privileged life has nonetheless been marred by the premature death, years earlier, of Dana's South African surfer mom. Dana's dad, we find out in rather perfunctory and stilted fashion (but hey—something's got to propel us into the surfing, right?), has long left surfing values behind and has a very distant and authoritarian sugar-daddy relationship with his daughter. On something of a post-argument whim, Dana decides to ditch college-prep planning and head for Durban to retrace the steps of her mom's surfing journal.
Soon after arriving in South Africa, Dana finds that her beach locker has been plundered—leaving her without money, and without a treasured memento of her mom. She falls in with a beach-squatting surf gang that includes Pushy, a black gal who aspires to land a spot on the Roxy surf team; Tara, a bitchy (and really pushy) surfer who is a gatekeeper of sorts for the Roxy team; and Tim, a good-hearted surf bum you just know will turn out to be A Really Neat Guy. Though, of course, Dana is at first taken in by the far flashier Grant, who, like Dana, comes from a rather privileged background.
Scenery and Mood in Spades Okay. So. The surfing. As the plot requires our heroes to build up to the really spectacular surfing at J-Bay, the vast majority of the preliminary stuff is pretty routine and unspectacular—and very clearly performed by stunt doubles... which is okay, because we expect that. These sequences mostly serve the plot: setting up conflict between Pushy and Tara, moving Dana's surfquest forward, providing the background of a romance quadrangle between Dana and Grant, Dana and Tim, and Tara and Grant. Oh, and there's some stuff about ivory smuggling, too.
But gosh: the scenery and mood that you expect from a surf film are here in spades. I’ve never seen a film that featured the beaches of South Africa, so this is all very welcome. (And there's a ton of extra footage on both the DVD and Blu-ray versions of this release, so that's a nice bonus!)
Good Casting with Positive Roles It's also nice that Sasha Jackson, as Dana, is not only not as fashion-model thin as she appears on the box art, she actually has a pretty solidly feminine figure, which actually looks womanly. So kudos on the casting there, for giving teens a really positive physical role model. Elizabeth Mathis, as Pushy, is lanky, but also doesn't look like a self-starved actress. I don't think I quite bought either of them as athletes—but then, I didn't buy any of the actual athletes in the film as actors, either, so fair is fair.
The outcome of the plot is predictable (and at times awfully cheesy), but the good news is that this film is actually more squeaky clean, relatively speaking, than the values presented by most Disney teen-star films these days. The surfers in this film care about each other and about their planet more than they care about money, pop culture, and drugs or booze. So Funicello, aside from that silly hair, would almost fit right in.
And not a Turista anywhere to be seen. Whew!
Rating BLUE CRUSH 2 is rated PG-13 for a fight sequence, brief nudity and a sexual reference. A fight sequence? Really? Come on. And the "brief nudity" is a couple shots of some surf bum's backside. We used to see that pretty regularly on Coppertone ads. PG-13 is very overstated. I'd give this film a PG, easy. The special features, though? More like PG-13.
Courtesy of a national publicist, Greg screened a promotional copy of BLUE CRUSH 2.