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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Chasing Mavericks

By
Joseph McAleer
Source: Catholic News Service


Gerard Butler and Jonny Weston star in a scene from the movie "Chasing Mavericks."
Surf's up in "Chasing Mavericks" (Fox), a thrilling action film about daredevil surfers who take on some of the biggest waves in the world, while rebuilding their own broken lives in the process.

The picture also offers viewers—particularly teens—a refreshingly positive role model in the person of a young man who, despite a mountain of obstacles, inspires others with his inherent sense of goodness, perseverance and self-discipline.

Jointly directed by Curtis Hansen and Michael Apted, "Chasing Mavericks" is based on the true story of Californian Jay Moriarity (Jonny Weston). At the tender age of 15, Jay attempted to surf the Mavericks, a famously formidable coastal spot located near the Golden State's Half Moon Bay.

Jay is shown to have the weight of the world on his young shoulders. His father has moved out, and his depressed mother, Kristy (Elisabeth Shue), is a drunken mess. Summoning a maturity beyond his years, Jay must act as parent and breadwinner, sobering his mother up for job interviews while working overtime at a pizza parlor to make ends meet.

Compounding his problems is the situation at his high school, where he is bullied for being poor, and can't seem to catch the eye of pretty schoolmate Kim (Leven Rambin).

And yet Jay keeps turning the other cheek and looking ahead, leaving his peers puzzled. "You always smile," Kim tells him. "You only see the good in everything."

What keeps Jay going—and makes others jealous—is his natural gift for surfing. The water transforms him in a baptismal way, fueling Jay's desire to use his God-given talents for the betterment of others. Thus it's no surprise that at one point we see him floating underwater, arms outstretched in a pose that suggests the role of a redeemer.

Jay finds a kindred spirit in his next-door neighbor, Frosty Hesson (Gerard Butler). He's the ultimate surfer dude who has family issues of his own. His wife, Brenda (Abigail Spencer), prays that Frosty will eventually accept responsibility and become a better husband and father.

Frosty's obsession with the Mavericks rubs off on Jay, and after much pestering, he agrees to train the teen in the art of big wave surfing. Frosty becomes Yoda to Jay's Luke Skywalker, teaching him the "four pillars of a solid human foundation"—physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.

"Chasing Mavericks" features some spectacular cinematography, placing audiences on the surfboard and above and under the waves. Surfing becomes much more than a sport, as the duo learns to overcome fears, face grief, resolve conflicts, and rebuild relationships.

Not surprisingly, "Live like Jay" has become a popular motto among surfers; perhaps now it will catch on with moviegoers as well.

The film contains intense sports scenes and some emotionally challenging moments. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II—adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG—parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

*****
Joseph McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.





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Junipero Serra: In 1776, when the American Revolution was beginning in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in California. That year a gray-robed Franciscan founded Mission San Juan Capistrano, now famous for its annually returning swallows. San Juan was the seventh of nine missions established under the direction of this indomitable Spaniard. 
<p>Born on Spain’s island of Mallorca, Serra entered the Franciscan Order, taking the name of St. Francis’ childlike companion, Brother Juniper. Until he was 35, he spent most of his time in the classroom—first as a student of theology and then as a professor. He also became famous for his preaching. Suddenly he gave it all up and followed the yearning that had begun years before when he heard about the missionary work of St. Francis Solanus in South America. Junipero’s desire was to convert native peoples in the New World. </p><p>Arriving by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico, he and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City. On the way Junipero’s left leg became infected by an insect bite and would remain a cross—sometimes life-threatening—for the rest of his life. For 18 years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula. He became president of the missions there. </p><p>Enter politics: the threat of a Russian invasion south from Alaska. Charles III of Spain ordered an expedition to beat Russia to the territory. So the last two <i>conquistadors</i>—one military, one spiritual—began their quest. José de Galvez persuaded Junipero to set out with him for present-day Monterey, California. The first mission founded after the 900-mile journey north was San Diego (1769). That year a shortage of food almost canceled the expedition. Vowing to stay with the local people, Junipero and another friar began a novena in preparation for St. Joseph’s day, March 19, the scheduled day of departure. On that day, the relief ship arrived. </p><p>Other missions followed: Monterey/Carmel (1770); San Antonio and San Gabriel (1771); San Luís Obispo (1772); San Francisco and San Juan Capistrano (1776); Santa Clara (1777); San Buenaventura (1782). Twelve more were founded after Serra’s death. </p><p>Junipero made the long trip to Mexico City to settle great differences with the military commander. He arrived at the point of death. The outcome was substantially what Junipero sought: the famous “Regulation” protecting the Indians and the missions. It was the basis for the first significant legislation in California, a “Bill of Rights” for Native Americans. </p><p>Because the Native Americans were living a nonhuman life from the Spanish point of view, the friars were made their legal guardians. The Native Americans were kept at the mission after Baptism lest they be corrupted in their former haunts—a move that has brought cries of “injustice” from some moderns. </p><p>Junipero’s missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic military commanders and even with danger of death from non-Christian native peoples. Through it all his unquenchable zeal was fed by prayer each night, often from midnight till dawn. He baptized over 6,000 people and confirmed 5,000. His travels would have circled the globe. He brought the Native Americans not only the gift of faith but also a decent standard of living. He won their love, as witnessed especially by their grief at his death. He is buried at Mission San Carlo Borromeo, Carmel, and was beatified in 1988. Pope Francis canonized him in Washington, D.C., on September 23, 2015.</p> American Catholic Blog Hope and faith can outshine the darkness of evil. However dense the darkness may appear, our hope for the triumph of the light is stronger still. Though violence continues to stain us with blood, the shadows of death can be dissipated with one act of light.

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