Lionsgate // 2006 // 87 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // August 3rd, 2007
This summer, get wet!
There's no reason why this movie shouldn't make you want to drive deck screws into your skull, but, strangely...
High school senior Jordan Sullivan (Corey Sevier) transplants to a California school from the East Coast and immediately finds it hard to fit in. He connects with a few fellow outcasts, including a smarmy freak, a wannabe hip-hop magnate, an introverted Goth chick and a clean-cut nerd-boy known as the only virgin in the school.
Jordan learns that the senior trip to Costa Rica for the surfing championships is invitation-only, and fed up with the discrepancy between the popular kids and the losers, he convinces his fellow freaks to go a week early and learn how to surf. That way, they'll be able to take part in the contest and maybe show the school jerks that they can win. To accomplish this feat, Jordan and company shack up with a pair of over-the-hill hippies and enlist former surfing legend Rip (Harland Williams) to teach them the tricks of the trade.
Surf School sucks. No way in getting around that. An assemblage of punished genre clichés, nonsense plot-points and dumb jokes, Surf School is, objectively speaking, as derivative and dopey as the generic title makes it sound. Yet, there is a glimmer of intangible charm present in the film that keeps me from laying into it.
But I'm probably the exception to the rule here, so let me just lay out the case. Start with the inane story: a group of uncoordinated, loser kids travel to Costa Rica to learn how to surf from scratch and actually compete in a championship contest where they -- SPOLIER ALERT! -- beat the pros. You could probably let this glaring breakdown of all sense of reality pass if the film existed in a self-mocking comedy existence where anything can happen, but that's not the case. Writer/director Joel Silverman plays it fairly straight, creating a world where we're to believe that these kids picked up the intricacies of surfing within a few days, without even the benefit of a montage! From Gilligans to shredders within a week?! Yowzers!
Now let's talk clichés, of which there are legion:
Cliché 1: Outcast Dude Who's Cooler and Better-Looking than the
Lead actor Corey Sevier is a charismatic guy and his character's likeability is in fact the main reason for the film's aforementioned charm. Jordan Sullivan apparently has it all: an athletic physique, good looks, hardened East Coast street-savvy, but for some reason everyone hates him. The film's jackasses focus mainly on his lacrosse talents as fodder for exclusion from the ranks of the cool kids. This is of course textbook teen movie characterization, granting the real losers of the film a bankable cool kid to boost their self-worth and inspire them to greater things.
Cliché 2: Nerd Boy Becomes Total Stud
As played by Lee Norris "Virgin Larry" -- of course -- sheds his awkward, creepy, white-bread exterior and becomes a) a surf champion even though we never saw him once on a board prior to the Big Contest and b) the plaything of three topless Swedish girls. Gotcha.
Cliché 3: Awkward Weird Girl Lets Loose Her Hair and Transforms into
This one is my personal favorite and has been beaten lifeless over the life-span of the teen movie/afterschool special/Growing Pains episode. Actress Laura Bell Bundy, the recipient of the extreme makeover is indeed comely, but, seriously, can we get even an atom of originality here?
Cliché 4: Plucky Underdogs Overcome to Prove Victorious
Another emaciated plot convention that was done more effectively in the episode of Family Matters where Steve Urkel joins the basketball team and sinks the slow-motion game-winner on the smallest court ever constructed (next to the one built for NBC's Hang Time of course).
After all that, yes, I understand that most carbon-based life forms wouldn't be interested in what Surf School offers and I don't blame you if you'd rather set aside a night to reupholster your living room furniture instead of watching it, but I'm reluctant to damn the disc to the fires of torment. For one, not all the jokes tank and the actors, inhabiting Xeroxed stereotypes that they do, perform well with the material. As I mentioned, Sevier is the standout and though the semi-realistic set-up establishes ludicrous plot holes, the kids seem at least sort of authentic. These elements certainly aren't enough to salvage the entire film, but I think they prevent it from being a complete abortion.
DVD-wise, this Lionsgate release offers little in the way of technical achievement or bonus features. The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen is surprisingly soft and if you didn't show me the release date I'd have a hard time believing it was filmed in this decade. For audio, you get a 5.1 surround and 2.0 stereo mix. No extras.
I forgot the soundtrack. The Surf School theme might just be the most excruciating vocal arrangement ever put to film.
Waterlogged with half-baked, rehashed clichés and lots of flaccid jokes, this quintillionth addition to the teen comedy genre is likely to drift out to sea, forgotten until its bloated husk washes up in a metropolitan harbor.
Review content copyright © 2007 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated