Blue Crush Review

Set on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, Blue Crush is a fairly lightweight teen romance film with some remarkable surfing sequences. Anne Marie (Kate Bosworth) and her friends Lena (Michelle Rodriguez) and Eden (Sanoe Lake) live to surf on the island’s North Shore – home to some of the most spectacular and dangerous waves for surfers. Anne Marie and her friends make their living as chambermaids, and a romance blossoms with one of the guests, football player Matt (Matthew Davis). Clearing up the disgusting mess left by guests gets too much for Anne Marie and her reaction costs her her job. The pressures of having to earn a living, acting as mother to her 14 year old sister (Mika Boorem), and dealing with the insecurity of being the victim of nothing more than a holiday romance combine to threaten her dream of competing in the Pipeline Masters.

Based on a series of articles by Susan Orlean, the actual storyline may be somewhat predictable and pedestrian, but it is enlivened by a fairly realistic and genuine portrayal of teenage frienships, romance and the pressures of having to come to terms with adulthood, with fresh and likeable performances from the leads. Kevin O’Reilly has covered this aspect of the film in his review of the Theatrical Release, and I would refer you to his review for a detailed and accurate critique of the storyline.

If the film is rather weak story-wise, technically it is an accomplished and stunning piece of work, with superbly choreographed, filmed and edited surfing sequences. In the commentary, the director talks about how the first surfing scene alone is pieced together from 8 weeks worth of shooting. The brilliance of the technical achievements, the choreography, planning, shooting and editing (and mostly seamless digital tweaking) is all up there on the screen. None of it is done to show off technical accomplishment, but is entirely to make the sequences as realistic and put us as close as it is possible to a surfboard without getting our feet wet. On this level the film is an undoubted success and a joy to watch.

PictureThe picture is transferred anamorphically at 1.85:1 and is serviceable if you don’t look too closely, but there are a great number of problems with the transfer. There are a few marks and scratches, but these aren’t too noticeable through the ‘sparkly’ sun-against-spray nature of the film. What is more of a problem is the heavy grain and artefacting, clearly visible against skies, which seems to be the consequence of over-compression. Colours generally lack tone and depth – night-time scenes are flat and overly dark, while day time scenes should be a lot more vivid in the bright sunlight. Characters can seem flat and without definition against bright backgrounds and edge-enhancement doesn’t help. There is also a bit of telecine wobble in the middle part of the film. None of these problems actually go as far as to spoil the film, but a film that is as impressively photographed as Blue Crush deserves a better transfer than this.

SoundThe sound is also rather lacking. Voices on the central channel are very thin and weak and are often drowned-out (literally) by the surround-sound waves. Even the surfing sequences lack the full power that should accompany the powerful images of the crashing waves. Underwater sequences also should be rather more enveloping, but again the effect is rather weak. When the sound is pushed during the showpiece action sequences, it comes across as too overpowering, competing with the musical score and lacking the required dynamic range. The soundtrack, featuring Bob Marley, Zero 7, N.E.R.D. and Beenieman among others is excellent and sets the perfect tone for the film. A good rap version of ‘Cruel Summer’ is used extensively, although this makes the film sail a little too close to The Karate Kid for comfort.

ExtrasFeature Commentary: John StockwellThe director’s commentary is quite good – striking a good balance between background information and anecdotes about cast and crew to technical information about what we are watching on-screen. He tends to underplay the technical achievements, but it is clear from his commentary the amount of effort that went into the shooting and into the pulling together of the whole film - and not just on the surfing sequences. A few months after principal filming, the cast and crew went back to Hawaii to shoot a lot of additional material to fill-out the backgrounds of the characters. The commentary is subtitled for hard of hearing, as are all the extras on the disc.

Feature Commentary: Kate Bosworth, Michelle Rodriguez & Sanoe LakeThe girls’ commentary is also well worth a listen. There are plenty of anecdotes about the filming and a lot of reaction to what is there on the screen. The constant interplay means that it never gets boring. It definitely gives another perspective to the director’s commentary, and there isn’t a great deal of overlap in the two commentaries.

Making of Blue CrushThe ‘Making of’ is a standard fluff feature – soundbites from cast and crew, rather than any in-depth interviews, interspersed with clips from the film. The real in-depth information is on the commentaries and other how-it-was-filmed features which make this a little pointless.

Deleted ScenesEight deleted scenes adding up to about 15 minutes are included, presented in 1.85:1 letterbox with an optional director’s commentary. One or two of the scenes were removed because they were too Baywatch-like, slow-mo rather cheesy sequences of the girls working out in the gym or on the beach to a music soundtrack. Hardly necessary for the film, but they’re here if you want to see them. One slightly more useful scene gives some information that fill-in the background about Anne Marie’s parents.

Filming Blue Crush (3.46)This is presented in 1.85:1 letterbox with optional commentary, but I can’t see this being of any value without the director’s commentary. It shows the different camera rigs and techniques used to shoot the surfing scenes. It also covers how digital face replacement was used to put the actresses faces onto the surfing experts.

The majority of the remainder of the extra material is made up of montages of outtakes and unused scenes mostly with optional director commentary (optionally subtitled) - The Female Surfing Revolution (1.53) looks at how women are becoming more involved and accepted in the surfing world; Wipeout! (1.41) shows scenes of some serious falls and accidents; there are more outtakes in Riding the Waves (4.59); Skateboarding (2.17) features additional unused footage from the party scene; Blue Crush Promo (2.33) is mostly pre-production footage created to give studio executives a feel for what the film was about; Surf Fashion (4.59) has Sanoe Lake modelling a lot of skimpy Billabong outfits and bikinis; The World of Surfing is a text-based feature providing a history of the sport, a glossary of surfing terms and information on boards and waves; a Lenny Kravitz Music Video (5.22) contains a promo advertisement for the soundtrack and the promo video of If I Could Fall In Love; the Theatrical Trailer (2.23) is presented at 1.85:1 letterbox. If all this hasn’t satisfied everything you want to know about Blue Crush, there are also DVD-ROM features and links to the official internet site.

ConclusionThe film and DVD are clearly marketed at a young, female audience, and it fulfils that role admirably, without talking down to them and without alienating a wider audience. This is a film with sequences that really should be demonstration quality for sound and picture, but the technical quality of the DVD is disappointingly lacking. As far as extras go, its hard to beat – it has just about everything you would want to know about the film and the commentaries are both particularly good quality, but it would be pity if the quality of the actual film transfer has been compromised to make room for them all.

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