Lively look at big wave surfing.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that young surfers and surfer wannabes will be very interested in seeing this movie that could have been a PG without the profanity. Interestingly, it's the older surfers who have the worst cases of potty mouth. Other than that, there's not much to worry about. There are multiple wipeouts, including one that killed a famous surfer. We hear of other surfers dying as well. In old footage we see a group of young surfers squirting lighter fluid into their mouths and then spitting it into flames -- you may want to let your kids know that this Jackass-style trick is not a good idea.
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What's the Story?
In RIDING GIANTS, documentary filmmaker Stacy Peralta (Dogtown and Z-Boys) tells the story of big wave surfing by showing us how the sport has evolved over time and how it continues to grow and change. He tells his tale through interviews with top surfers from over the years and stunningly beautiful archival film clips of their best rides. Instead of concentrating on how the sport has become commercialized, this film celebrates the simple joy of surfing and the rush that comes with riding giant waves. The documentary's depiction of the North Shore surfing life in the 1950s is every kid's dream: a small band of young friends living in beach shacks, catching their own food, and surfing all day without being tied down with any responsibilities. These young men eschewed the 1950s dream of finding the perfect job and settling down and instead focused on catching the next big wave.
Is It Any Good?
Whether you're a hard-core surfer or someone who wears board shorts as a fashion statement, there's something here to capture your attention and imagination. Riding Giants loses a bit of steam during the segment on the 1960s, which focuses on how a slew of cheap teen movies that appeared after the release Gidget popularized the sport and took it away from the original surfers. It picks up when it moves into the 1980s and beyond, with the discovery of Mavericks in Northern California, surf legend Mark Foo's shocking death, and the extreme sports trend. It culminates in Laird Hamilton's unbelievable triumph over nature in Tahiti -- the footage of Hamilton's ride is truly awe-inspiring, and almost makes you understand why these surfers have dedicated their lives to having a ride like this.
Kids may find it interesting to see that these early surfers were actually rebels, especially since surfing seems so mainstream these days. If anything, you may worry that the documentary glamorizes the sport because it makes the quest for the perfect wave seem so fulfilling. However, this spiritual view is balanced with the more practical realities of what can happen when one chases the perfect wave. No one is invincible, and that point is driven home many times.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the laid-back attitudes many of the surfer have about taking risks and facing death -- why do they feel they must accept the challenge of riding a dangerously big wave, even though they know they have a good chance of dying while trying? What do you think of the idea of devoting your life to riding the perfect wave? Does this movie promote or dispel stereotypes about surfers and surfing?
- In theaters: July 9, 2004
- On DVD or streaming: January 4, 2005
- Cast: Darrick Doerner, Jeff Clark, Laird Hamilton
- Director: Stacy Peralta
- Studio: Sony Pictures
- Genre: Documentary
- Run time: 90 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: brief strong language
- Last updated: January 2, 2023
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