Billabong Odyssey Movie Review

The search for the world's biggest wave comes off an awful lot like the world's longest educational video, with the usual "safety first" rhetoric and a minimum of real surfing footage.

Obviously inspired by the crush of skateboarding-as-rising-sport movies like Dogtown and Z-Boys and Stoked, Billabong Odyssey ostensibly follows a surfing competition in which the winner is crowned by surfing on the biggest wave in the world (this turns out to be about 70 feet high, which the breathtaking opening sequence presents in all-too-dramatic size). That's all well and good, but Billabong falls into the deadly trap of being more about its subjects than about the sport. I don't know Brad Gerlach from Mike Parsons, but if you're the kind of person who does, you might find something interesting in their life history and entree into the sport of surfing.

You might also find yourself intrigued about how weather reports, simulators, and jet skis are enabling this kind of extreme surfing, but in the end, even die-hard surfheads will want these clowns to just shut up and get on their boards. Even the relatively banal Endless Summer series got that right. Bruce Brown is smart enough to include minimal footage that doesn't include some wave work -- and when he narrates, his main goal is to crack jokes.

Barely 30 minutes into this 88-minute feature, I was ready to turn the disc off if I heard one more time about how "on the cusp" these surfers felt they were.

And eventually they do get on the waves, and director Philip Boston has a handful of miraculous shots in store for us, usually via helicopter fly-by shots and in-your-face telephoto work.

Ultimately, though, the film's sensibility -- with its loud soundtrack, quick-cuts to magazine covers and articles, and slow-motion action shots -- is too strange of a conflagration of PBS and MTV to be effective.

Comments

Billabong Odyssey Rating

" Grim "

Rating: PG, 2003

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