Bruce Brown’s “The Endless Summer II,” the sequel to his 1966 sleeper hit, offers everything anyone could want to know about surfing, and more. Exciting, ravishingly photographed surfing sequences are contained within a travelogue format that is part National Geographic, part adventure and part documentary. While high-adrenaline action will keep surfing fans drenched with enthusiasm, rather schematic structure and narration that is not always fresh or funny should keep B.O. at middle levels.
Over the last three decades, the novelty of surfing has worn out: There have been TV programs and narrative films (“Big Wednesday,” “Point Break”) about this exciting sport, creating the problem of coming up with something new in documenting the endless search for the “perfect wave.” This time out, director and co-writer Brown, who popularized surfing for the public in the l960s, is only partially successful. After 20 minutes of acrobatic surfing in various combos (solo, tandem, trio, even dogs), story begins by introducing its two handsome California heroes: Blond Patrick O’Connell, an expert on the shortboard , and dark-haired Robert “Wingnut” Weaver, a professional longboard surfer.
Travelogue follows youngsters as they move around the globe, visiting some of its most exotic spots: Costa Rica, Hawaii, France, South Africa, Australia, Fiji , Bali, Java and even Alaska, the latter not exactly an ideal setting or climate for the sport.
After visiting three or four sites, pic becomes a bit redundant as it follows the same structure: Some long shots of the local scenery, info and encounters with dangerous animals (Kodiak bears, wild elephants, alligators, poisonous snakes, hungry lions), meetings with local surfers (including some international champions), and more sumptuous footage in and under water.
The young men are appealing and their pyrotechnics are always exciting to watch, but they are seldom given a chance to use their own voices to share personal thoughts and feelings about their passion. Pic offers only tidbits about the psychology of surfing, the motivation to engage in it, the bliss in doing it, the special personality it takes, and the sub-culture it creates.
Enjoying a much bigger budget, larger crew and more sophisticated equipment than the original, “Endless Summer II” boasts more spectacular scenery and a most impressive technical and visual sheen. But the narration is not as diverting and tongue-in-cheek as that of the first film, which admittedly had the advantage of charting new territory. With a running time of 107 minutes, new edition is too long by at least 20 minutes.