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MOVIE REVIEW

It's beach blanket boredom

September 12, 2008|Michael Ordona | Special to The Times

Look, Matthew McConaughey has his shirt off.

Perhaps it's his attempt at baring his soul for the apparent labor of love and Sex Wax, "Surfer, Dude." Yeah, there's a comma in there, presumably to imply something deeper than the disjointed mess it actually is.

For his production company's first jaunt, McConaughey has gathered friends including Willie Nelson and Woody Harrelson, a regular stoners' all-star team, to tell the tall tale of a super-mellow surfer dude (no comma) who refuses to take part in the corporate game. Literally. He turns down a virtual surfing simulator and a reality show that are somehow connected. Oh, no, he'd much rather starve to death while hanging 10. But with all this negative energy around, the waves suddenly disappear, setting off what the filmmakers clearly think is an existential crisis for our perpetually stoned hero.

That's deep, bro.

The film is awash in doobies and breasts, cliched cinematic language and clumsy exposition. It's reminiscent of the stoner-culture movies of the late '60s and early '70s but without the naive fun. In fact, the hero comes across not as spiritual and mellow but dim and lost . . . making him an ideal center for this film.

The script (the "brain" child of at least four writers) is so uninspired that it can't even organically resolve the utterly tensionless plot, requiring a laughable deus ex machina that renders the entire second half of the film unnecessary.

First-time feature director S.R. Bindler does McConaughey no favors with countless shots of his character's blank expression as he struggles to understand what's happening around him or what was just said to him or, whatever, dude. Ramon Rodriguez, as a rival surfer, comes uncomfortably close to a broad Latino stereotype -- in a more cleverly crafted film the portrayal would clearly be parody.

The actors playing the inevitable bunch of stoner buddies do not distinguish themselves. As the love interest, Alexie Gilmore (TV's "New Amsterdam") seems too smart to be in this movie.

Did I mention McConaughey probably still has his shirt off? When that's the main draw for a movie, it takes an awfully limited demographic to not feel as if 88 minutes of one's life have been wasted -- read that as "lost unproductively," not "high on drugs" -- by watching the profoundly boring "Surfer, Dude."

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"Surfer, Dude." MPAA rating: R for pervasive drug use, language and nudity. Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes. In general release.

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