Americans love to obsess, and they do it about racing cars, surfing, skiing, hang gliding, flying vintage planes--an endless array of off-center sports that become the focus for both the enthusiast and the obsessed who are blinded to any other dimension of life.
"Endless Summer II" is a second search for the perfect wave by two surfing buddies who weren't even born when Bruce Brown made the low-budget, high-impact film that turned surfing into a high-fashion sport in 1964. Since then, two things have happened that make the new movie a visual extravaganza.
Film technique has become so sophisticated that the camera literally deposits the audience on the board with Pat and Wingnut (yes, Wingnut), and it's a dazzling ride. The water shots are so glorious that it seems irrelevant at times that tiny humans have found a way to make sport with it.
The second development is that the sport went global. Brown reminds us that when he found his perfect wave in Capetown, South Africa, only four major surfing spots had been explored by a handful of adventurers. Now an entire population of wiry guys with hair bleached white and bodies burned brown are stalking perfection on all continents. Pat and Wingnut do their astounding thing in Hawaii, Costa Rica, Africa, Indonesia, Australia and find their perfect day in Fiji. It is there, with enormous skill, that they play human games in the overwhelming power of a natural force.
They move from beach to beach through a worldwide network of passionate, eccentric surfers who welcome them as one more reason to jump on their boards. All this is spellbinding enough to hold an audience for an hour, but the connective tissue of the film stretches it to almost two and is wretchedly thin. The film fairly screams for some verbal commentary by those who love the sport. Instead, sophomoric visual jokes and dialogue are manufactured to fill the empty spaces. Whenever our heroes are on land they are embarrassing caricatures of the sunbaked airhead. Pat walks through the land segments cackling as if his thumb is stuck in a wall socket. Perhaps it was an act of mercy to withhold commentary after all.
That raises the question of culture and cult. Americans love to obsess, and they do it about racing cars, surfing, skiing, hang gliding, flying vintage planes--an endless array of off-center sports that become the focus for both the enthusiast and the obsessed who are blinded to any other dimension of life. The culture that builds around any one of these sports operates by rigid guidelines for the experts in an immediately recognizable code that is a global bond.
In surfing, the long and short boarders are looking not for an afternoon's pleasure, but for the high of mastering the impossible wave just as their counterparts in other sports are conquering an air current or a no-chance mogul. These are people obsessed with physical thrills. Not one of them is thinking about the mortgage. If there is a downside to their virtuosity, it is the thought that meeting one of them in any place other than under the curl of the wave holds all the promise of a conversation with a fish.
Film Critic: JOAN ELLIS
Word Count: 498
Studio: New Line Cinema
Rating: PG, 1h 47m
Copyright (c) Illusion
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