'Blue Crush' proves formulas can work

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

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

their cell phone. Although, it might be important to note, as a

non-surfing Huntington Beach native, my personal knowledge of that

world is questionable. Point is, I bought it. I think you will, too.

What makes "Blue Crush" such a fun ride are the adrenaline pumping

action scenes. This film is a fantastic achievement in underwater

photography and pulse-racing editing. Edge-of-my-seat excitement is

not an understatement. The editor knows how to throw an audience into

disappointment and then lift them back up. The pacing is inspiring.

It's not easy to film a movie on or in the ocean. It's a nightmare to

shoot dialogue since the natural sound of pounding waves would drown

it out. That's why, with rare exception, a large portion of the

in-the-water dialogue in "Blue Crush" is heard without seeing the

character's mouth speak it. It would be too difficult to "loop"

(re-recording the actors in studio as they try to match the moving

lips on the screen) during post-production. However, this is

forgivable.

"Blue Crush" won't change your life, you may not even remember it

in a few years, but it does command your attention for the two hours

you paid for. Most movies can't fathom such a daring feat of

accomplishment.

Oh, I almost forgot one other point ... the girls are kinda

pretty, too.

* ALLEN MacDONALD, 29, is currently working toward his master's

degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute in Los

Angeles.

'Pluto' far from out of this world

Eddie Murphy needs to fire his agent.

In "The Adventures of Pluto Nash," Murphy plays the title

character, an ex-smuggler managing a famous nightclub on the moon --

85 years in the future. The big threat: the mob puts pressure on Nash

to sell his venue to them.

There is no forgiving the writer. The story, by Neil Cuthbert

("Mystery Man"), is abysmal. Rather than typing the drivel he calls a

script, Cuthbert should have saved a tree.

Director Ron Underwood, ("City Slickers") guided the project

effortlessly -- so effortlessly you might think that there was no

director. The other actors who should be denying any involvement in

this picture are: Rosario Dawson, Randy Quaid, Joe Pantoliano, Jay

Mohr, Luis Guzman, James Rebhorn, Peter Boyle, Burt Young, Miguez A.

Nunez, John Cleese, Alec Baldwin and Pam Grier.

The big joke, which was shown in the previews, is that Hillary

Clinton will be the president shown on the $10,000 lunar currency in

2087. That's it. I saved you the price of admission.

Why Warner Bros. thought now would be a good time to release this

film, is beyond me. Filming was completed on "Pluto" 2 years ago, and

it has sat on a shelf since. Perhaps they thought this movie could

serve as a $90 million advertisement for AOL and CNN, which are

spotlighted in the story. The fact that Warner Bros opted to not

allow the press to preview "Pluto", demonstrates its transparent lack

of confidence in this product.

"Pluto" has no message, no morality tale, no underlying truth. It

is not a spoof, or parody, it simply is a vehicle for Eddie Murphy

that crashed at launch. Murphy's last outing, "Showtime," was not

much better and his future release, a remake of "I-Spy" in which he

re-portrays Bill Cosby's classic character, does not look to hold

much promise. What has happened to Eddie Murphy? I believe him to

still be an outstanding comedian-actor, but "The Adventures of Pluto

Nash" will definitely not substantiate my opinion.

* RAY BUFFER, 32, is a professional singer, actor and voice-over

artist.

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