Judge Brett Cullum harshes McConaughey's mellow.
Our review of Surfer, Dude (Blu-Ray), published January 9th, 2009, is also available.
"Love and waves, that's what we need in these dark days."
Surfer, Dude is a vanity project produced by hunky actor Matthew McConaughey's own company called "just keep living." It took seven years to get made, and he's using a lot of people he's known since his early twenties, and boy does it show that he's simply hanging out with friends getting stoned, naked, and making a movie on the beach. Woody Harrelson, Scott Glenn, and Willlie Nelson show up mainly to smoke bud on and off camera while improvising their lines. It all proves being Matthew McConaughey isn't all that hard, but making a good movie with him producing is going to be a challenge. He's so out of touch with anything other than a California dream that hasn't been in style for nearly 30 years, and the film feels like it is out of step with today's reality. Surfer, Dude evokes a soft '70s feel and vibe even though it was filmed digitally with the latest technology and incorporates a reality TV and video game plot. This is what a guy pushing 40 chooses to make as his big producing debut? It would have been better just to film him playing bongos nude with Lance Armstrong and Jake Gyllenhaal. Instead he gets a director known mainly for documentary films (S.R. Bindler, Hands on a Hard Body) and a legendary cinematographer (Elliot Davis, Twilight) to turn in a comedy that's not very funny.
The movie is so laid back and stoned, it's missing a plot, any dramatic tension, or more than one or two funny moments. Matthew McConaughey (Tropic Thunder) stars as Steve Addington, the titular surfer who says "dude" a lot. He comes home to Malibu after an extended "endless summer" in Fiji. The company that has always sponsored him has been sold, and the new owner (Jeffrey Nordling, Flight 93) wants him to star in a reality series and help complete his new surfing virtual reality video game. Yet somehow the world of television and Xbox simulation projects scares Addington, who only wants to catch waves and smoke joints. In comes the love interest (Alexie Gilmore, Descent) who is from New York. She is an executive for the corporation behind everything, and if Addison can get her to understand his world, she might save the day.
Anchor Bay does a nice job with Surfer, Dude on DVD. The transfer is competent, even though the source material makes it look like a soft grainy '70s era film. The surfing scenes are pretty good, even if it is all too apparent someone else is riding the waves other than our lead. Sound design is delivered well enough with five speakers devoted to waves and beach music blaring out almost the whole time. It seems they do what they can with what they got, and that's a nice way to describe everything else you'll find on the DVD. We get a semi-literate commentary from McConaughey, which reinforces his thought that all this was a good idea. He laughs at himself, and talks about how deep scenes are that barely scratch the surface. A behind the scenes feature goes even further showing the struggle to assemble a cast and get everybody on track. There's a few deleted scenes that add up to bong hits and waxing a surf board. The 12 episodes of the Web series shows more behind the scenes footage much of which is repeated from the other behind the scenes feature. All in all you get a sense this was far more fun to make than watch, and curiously the extras make you angry you weren't there for the party. A documentary on the production would have been far funnier than the actual final product.
Surfer, Dude angles to be a stoner comedy where the lovable loser takes on the corporate world and wins. Yet it becomes sad when you realize it's simply a film that gives Matthew McConaughey a chance to wear nothing but one pair of board shorts to showcase his hot 40-year-old frame. Dude, he still has abs! It probably all sounded good after a few joints, but the harsh on the mellow is there is no story worth caring about. I can see it being a NetFlix rental for middle management corporate drones of a certain age who want a fantasy look at what their lives could have been if they just said yes to pot and sunshine. It looks like it would have been a blast to be on the set, but being in the audience proves a bit painful. The big realization that comes to you is "I am not nearly stoned or hot as any of these people" and that's a bummer. The fantasy isn't the surfing, it's the idea that this project was so important to its leading man. It's all proof positive actors should never choose their own roles and bankroll a production on money they could have spent on gym membership dues and weed.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
• Audio Commentary
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