Anchor Bay // 2011 // 96 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Franck Tabouring (Retired) // May 17th, 2012
The further you get from home, the closer you get to finding yourself.
Friday Night Lights alumna Aimee Teegarden travels to sunny California and rediscovers herself in David Mueller's Beautiful Wave, a contrived little surfer drama that lacks anything a decent indie flick requires to stand out and garner interest. Why this movie received a bigger exposure than it deserves baffles me, but the folks at Anchor Bay obviously saw enough value in this shallow coming-of-age to release it on DVD. We've seen a bunch of mediocre surfer films over the past few years, and sadly this fails to add anything new to a genre drained of innovation.
Teegarden slips into the role of reclusive teenager Nicole, who resides in New York City with her hard-working mom and continues to struggle with the tragic death of her father. Fed up with her daughter's sorrow, Nicole's mother sends her to California to spend the summer with her estranged grandmother (Patricia Richardson, Home Improvement), a free-spirited woman wrestling with her own demons. Despite Nicole's initial reservations, she quickly settles in, befriending a group of local surfers and uncovering a shocking family secret that will change her life forever.
Despite her looks and stellar performance as Coach Eric Taylor's daughter on Friday Night Lights, Aimee Teegarden is an actress without a character in Beautiful Wave. This superficial, incredibly bland movie lacks both personality and emotion. Riddled with every single surfer cliche imaginable, Mueller's film drowns in monotony, following Nicole and her new buddies as they spend most of the movie's 96 minute runtime driving an old van down the coast of Mexico. ((Yawn!)) When they're not driving, they're surfing, and when they're not surfing, they're engaging in senseless conversations or getting all worked up over silly little quarrels.
The action lacks energy; an implausible romance, a ridiculous run-in with armed Mexican soldiers, and an over-the-top encounter with aggressive poachers round out a repetitive plot devoid of absorbing storytelling. Teegarden and her co-stars get to act like carefree surfers in pursuit of the ultimate dream (whatever that is), but the script never presents them any challenge and the performances feel empty. Richardson shows a little emotion as grandma Sue, and only Lance Henriksen (Millennium) stands out from the cast. To make matters worse, the film's overly saccharine final 15 minutes turns an already far-fetched "twist" into a laughable climax.
At its core, Beautiful Wave is just another drama about a teenager's self-discovery on a voyage away from home, and a weak one at that. The filmmakers certainly mean well in their depiction of a troubled girl overcoming sorrow through a newfound passion and a better understanding of her family roots, but when all is said and done, the obstacles Nicole faces warrant little recognition and praise. Neither the characters nor their experiences create the emotional tension and conflict resolution you want to see in a memorable film.
Surprisingly enough, Beautiful Wave is shot rather well, and the Blu-ray transfer delivers the goods. The 1.78:1/1080p high definition transfer shows a little grain, particularly during night shots, but otherwise the image is crisp and clear. In the audio department, the TrueHD 5.1 Surround mix impresses. And if you're looking for bonus features, you're out of luck.
Nothing short of a missed opportunity, Beautiful Wave suffers from a flat, mechanical script and spiritless acting. With solid production values and a lead actress who has the potential to deliver a poignant performance, it all comes down to the writing, which clearly doesn't make waves.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13