Recent evidence suggested the prospect of seeing Matthew McConaughey shirtless was enough to cause at least a medium stampede of female patrons toward opening-weekend box offices. Ergo, it seems strange that the alluringly titled “Surfer, Dude” — in which he wears nothing but board shorts throughout — should be dumped into not-so-wide U.S. release sans advance screenings or major promo push. Strange, that is, until you see the hapless, laughless movie itself. Exit to home formats should prove prompt, and more profitable.
Feature debut by S.R. Bindler, whose “Hands on a Hard Body” (not McConaughey’s) was a deserved docu hit a decade ago, appears to be the product of loyalty among Texan buds, on which cast and crew probably had a very good time. It would challenge audiences to claim the same, however, even if plied with as much weed as the hero.
Four people, director included, are credited with “Surfer, Dude’s” screenplay, which is aimlessly amateurish in the tradition of such so-bad-it’s-not-funny comedies as “The Hottie and the Nottie” and “Going Overboard.”
“Legendary soul surfer” Steve Addington (McConaughey) is back at home in Malibu from his latest wave-chasing world travels. Manager Jacko (Woody Harrelson) informs the oblivious star he’s broke, news that doesn’t sink in until new endorsement-contract buyer Eddie Zarno (Jeffrey Nordling) cuts off his credit. What Zarno wants is Steve’s participation in developing a surfing simulation game and a reality TV show faking conflict between world-class surfers at a luxury beachside manse stocked with topless babes.
Steve’s having none of that, but beyond cash-flow worries, there’s the deeper discombobulation wrought by record-setting weeks of wavelessness along the entire West Coast. Offering some consolation is Danni (Alexie Gilmore), a New York corporate kingpin’s daughter fired from the TV show when she objects to its false representation of Steve as an arrogant jerk.
Even this brief summary suggests the rudderless “Surfer, Dude” has more plot than is ever palpable onscreen. Practically every moment feels like a skippable, should’ve-been-deleted scene; those involving a Rico Suave-styled Puerto Rican surfer (Ramon Rodriguez) and a kid from Baja Mexico are embarrassingly stereotypical. But mostly, pic is just dull, as situations, satire, cinematography and even surfing scenes end up passed out on the creative sand, gasping like a beached whale.
McConaughey has demonstrated a fine knack for laid-back loopy humor as far back as “Dazed and Confused.” Fellow “EDtv” star/Texan/whole-fiber-kinda-guy Harrelson is no slouch in that department, either. But this is not a shining, or even dimly glowing, hour for either. Scott Glenn and Willie Nelson cameo in Big Kahuna-type non-roles.