BLUE CRUSH

Now that “Baywatch” has been relegated to rerun heaven, what’s an addict to do? He can fork over seven bucks and see much the same mixture of jiggly beachfront titillation, silly, sporadic action and ridiculously by-the-numbers storytelling–along with some nice scenery, a bevy of bronzed bodies and numerous large and impressive swells of sea–in “Blue Crush.” The picture is co-produced by Brian Grazer, who made last year’s Oscar-winner “A Beautiful Mind.” It would have been both symmetrical and very honest had he titled this bit of soggy melodramatic malarkey “Mindless.” The banality of the script is matched only by the ineptitude of the acting and direction, and all the shimmering waves and chiseled torsos on view aren’t sufficient compensation.

In the numbingly corny and insipid yarn set in Hawaii, Anne Marie (Kate Bosworth), a stunning blonde, works as a maid in a posh hotel with her two buddies Eden (Michelle Rodriguez, the rough-edged, sullen one) and Lena (Sanoe Lake, the perky, dimpled one). But her real ambition is to be a champion surfer: she’s training, under Eden’s demanding guidance, for an imminent competition in an area called the Pipe, for its habit of creating huge tunnel-like walls of water. But poor Anne Marie’s got troubles: not only is she forced to take care of her rebellious younger sister Penny (Mika Boorem) in her parents’ (unexplained) absence–shades of “Lilo & Stitch”–but she’s haunted by recollections of a surfing accident in which she was nearly killed (we’re subjected to repeated murky flashbacks of the incident to pound home the point). In addition, she falls for Matt Tollman (Matthew Davis), a sweet-natured hotel guest who just happens to be a vacationing NFL quarterback, and her dalliance with him reduces her ability to practice for the tournament–causing Eden to get really snarly. (She’s living her own dreams of glory through Anne Marie, you see.)

The script by Lizzy Weiss and John Stockwell is said to have been based on a magazine article by Susan Orlean called “Surf Girls of Maui” (which itself sounds like the moniker of a bad 1950s exploitation flick, released no doubt by American International); but it owes almost everything to the conventions of the cheapest young-adult melodrama. Despite the deep-ocean setting, it has all the profundity of a kiddie wading-pool. Much of the dialogue is soap opera boilerplate, and the plot contrivances are no better developed (wouldn’t you know there’s a Hawaiian hunk who once dated Anne Marie and takes umbrage at her showing Matt a beach “reserved for the locals,” leading to an obligatory fight?). The performances would be more at home on the tube, too. Bosworth is an attractive young thing–we get to see an awful lot of her stuffed into skimpy bikinis–but she’s embarrassingly amateurish doing anything beyond standing in some statuesque pose (even when riding her board). (Her giggles of delight when introduced to Matt’s palatial hotel room are sub-Sandra Dee.) Rodriguez pouts and sulks a lot–she’s becoming little more than a young version of Rosie Perez, though one can at least understand what she’s saying–and Davis (the object of Reese Witherspoon’s affection in “Legally Blonde”) doesn’t offer much beyond a bland smile and generalized niceness. The filmmakers try to extract laughs repeatedly from the sight of two obese African-Americans, Faizon Love and Shaun Robinson, frolicking about minimally clothed as slovenly teammates of Matt’s. The crassness of these moments is truly gruesome.

To be fair, “Blue Crush” has some nice cinematography by David Hennings: the surfing sequences at the close are pretty spectacular, though curiously many of the on-land scenes are disfigured by an excessive use of close-ups and the ragged, unfocused editing of Emma E. Hickox (while others come off like PR advertisements for the Hawaii Tourist Bureau). Otherwise the movie is a wipeout. You’d be much better off watching Stockwell’s “crazy/beautiful” from last year–a portrait of teen turmoil with some real dramatic punch beneath the glossy surface.