This surfing movie from S.R. Bindler, who won plaudits for his documentary “Hands on a Hardbody,” is a total wipeout. Basically a vanity project for Matthew McConaughey, who also served as one of its producers, “Surfer, Dude” is an extraordinarily sloppy tale about Steve Addington, the coolest waves star in all of Malibu—played by McConaughey, of course—whom a nasty, greedy promoter pressures to join his latest project, which involves participating in a “Big Brother”-style reality show and allowing his ride technique to be fed into a virtual reality matrix for use in software. Steve, a dude for whom it’s all about waves, not money, resists and suffers the consequences.
There’s really little more to the movie than watching McConaughey, as dazed and confused as he’s ever seemed—probably because of the weed he and his pals constantly seem to be consuming—traipse about in his prison-style shorts bemoaning the lack of wind and waves for a couple of months. (The director helpfully adds title cards throughout to show the passage of time. When we finally get to “58 days without waves,” you might be tempted to say, “Is that all? It seems much longer.”) We also have to endure his face-offs with that nasty promoter (Jeffrey Nordling); his weirdly passionless romance with one of the promoter’s assistants, Danni (Alexie Gilmore), who ultimately proves his salvation; and his gonzo interludes with his zonked-out manager (Woody Harrelson) and with an old coot (Willie Nelson) who, for some reason, raises goats. Cool Steve also has a trio of nitwit buddies (Zachary Knighton, Todd Stashwick and Nathan Philips) who do a laid-back Three Stooges routine. But the goofiest segment probably comes when Steve and Danni go off on an impromptu jaunt to Mexico in search of waves and stay on the beach with the dude’s old mentor, played by a maniacally grinning Scott Glenn.
All of this is poorly staged by Bindler and photographed (by cinematographer Elliot Davis), who give McConaughey far too much leeway to mug for the camera, and is thrown together into a shapeless blob by editor Nancy Richardson. And all the acting is frankly subpar.
The result is a grubby little movie that will make you understand how Harrelson’s character feels when he says to a creditor at one point, “You just harshed my morning mellow, dude”—and even make you yearn for McConaughey’s last ocean-based bomb, “Fool’s Gold.” (At least there the scenery was pretty and nicely shot.) As for this movie, it’s terrible, dude.