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Off the Lip

A mediocre Hawaiian surfing adventure that lacks one very essential quality--surfing.


Recent journalism grad Kat (Marguerite Moreau) signs on for the adventure of a lifetime when the wealthy owner of a surfing Web site sends her off to find a surfer as much myth as man, a larger-than-life figure named simply Monk. Setting out against the wishes of her dentist father (David Rasche), who would rather she take a job in his office, Kat is followed everywhere by her filmmaker boyfriend Brad (Mackenzie Astin) and his skeleton camera crew. Back home Dave (Adam Scott) the site's young, lonely designer falls in love with Kat as she sends back report after report in her quest for Monk. Along the way Kat meets Lenser (Mark Fite), a surf photographer reviled by his surfing peers for having ''sold out'' to earn a living off the cresting waves. With Lenser's help, Kat gets closer and closer to Monk until fate intervenes and she is forced to fall back on her father's assistance to continue her journey. When her father expects her to return home with him after her adventure is over, Kat must decide whether to take the safe and easy path or find her own.


When the supposedly most interesting character in the film isn't, you know you have a problem. Moreau's Kat is a generic girl on a mission of discovery. While her acting talent may be dubious, she is at least visually appealing even when photographed Blair Witch style all blubbery and scared on the terrifying island of Maui. Scott's geeky Web designer is, strangely enough, the most engaging character in the film even though he is almost exclusively present on screen via a halting Web feed. The gang that goes to Hawaii suffers in comparison to Scott, who has moved on to working with the likes of Martin Scorsese since this film was shot four years ago. Astin (Sean's slimmer brother) is utterly tedious as the callow boyfriend you just know she will not be with by film's end. The supporting cast (Jim Turner, Fite and Dave Allan) comprised of the comedy group Two-Headed Dog is tiresomely goofy and adds nary a laugh.


Director Robert Mickelson, who has given the world such seminal works as Prayer of the Rollerboys and Across the Moon as a producer, makes his directorial debut with this weak self discovery in Hawaii flick. Mickelson has said that what made him want to make this film was his fascination with the surfing lifestyle--and yet hardly any of the characters ever even go into the water. Mickelson has also boasted that the film was in pre-production for just two months before the first day of shooting, perhaps giving it its loose, cobbled-together feel. While using different media to capture a story may have been interesting and cutting edge ten years ago, shooting on security cameras and Webcams is not, any longer, cool enough to cover up the basic lack of originality in the script. His actors too often look like they are struggling to make it up as they go along, giving the film an amateurish rather than auteurish quality.

Bottom Line

For a film with actual surfing in it rent Step Into Liquid or Endless Summer, but if it's babes in bikinis empowered by surfing you're after, rent the otherwise utterly ridiculous Blue Crush to check out genuine surfer girl Sanoe Lake's wonderfully natural performance. Leave Off the Lip on the shelf where it's been since 2000.