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by Steve Warren

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When the Beach Boys sang about a "Surfer Girl" she was an ornament, an appendage, someone to polish a dude's rod while he polished his board.

That was in the 20th century. Now the girls don't go in the water just to get their t-shirts wet, and they're more interested in whether a guy's got wood than a woody.

Blue Crush is the story of four 21st-century surfer girls, but one in particular. Directed by John Stockwell (crazy/beautiful), it tries to do for surfing movies what The Fast and the Furious did for flicks about street racing. The result is less successful dramatically but fills the bill if you're looking for a summer movie that's light on drama but heavy on awesomely photographed surfing stunts.

It's Beach Party with bigger waves and cameras that go where they couldn't before - and if they still can't the computer makes it look like they can.

The story, by Lizzy Weiss with an assist from the director on the screenplay, is based on a magazine article, "Surf Girls of Maui," by Susan Orlean. So the female perspective is well represented, even if much of the film's appeal will be to guys who want to see hot babes in scanty bikinis (though they're not built like the women on "Baywatch").

OK, there are lesbian voyeurs too; and they'll be rewarded with a rather obvious lesbian subtext in this hetero love story combined with a message of female empowerment.

Anne Marie Chadwick (Kate Bosworth) lives to surf. She was on her way to a championship until she was sidelined by a "near-drowning incident" three years ago that still haunts her; but this year she's entered in the Pipe Masters competition on the Banzai Pipeline, "the heaviest wave in the world."

In a situation reminiscent of Lilo & Stitch Anne Marie has been looking after her difficult, 14-year-old sister Penny (Mika Boorem) since their mother ran off to "Vegas with her latest meal ticket." They share a house with Eden (Michelle Rodriguez) and Lena (Sanoe Lake), who are like Anne Marie's back-up singers (except nobody sings). Eden and Lena aren't given the usual romantic subplots so for all we know they could be lovers.

The three women work as maids in a local hotel but Anne Marie is conveniently fired (the hotel has a non-fraternization rule) just before a guest, a pro quarterback named Matt (Matthew Davis), takes an interest in her. He offers to pay her for surfing lessons and soon the surf's not the only thing that's up.

With a week to go until the competition, romance distracts Anne Marie from her training, which she seems to have put off until the last minute. Eden tries to get her back on track ("Some guy thinks you look hot in a bikini and you forget all about the contest") but is she concerned with the competition or jealous of Matt? (That question may be answered near the end when Eden says, "It's just a stupid contest.") Anne Marie tells her friend, "Get your own life and stop living through me. Get your own dreams."

Anne Marie's dreams are supposedly all about surfing, yet she gets bent out of shape at the thought that her fling with Matt may be just a vacation affair for him. Is she willing to give up surfing to become a football wife? You can bet such questions are ignored in the quest for a happy ending, which tries to suggest she can have it all without going into detail.

The actors are adequate for the limited demands of their roles. Bosworth doesn't register strongly enough to be This Month's Blonde but she does nothing wrong. Rodriguez, whose bust a few months ago for domestic violence against the woman she lives with received curiously little play in the queer press, continues to scowl and look tough, like a female Ice Cube, but little more.

Faizon Love is amusing in an arguably offensive performance as the Fat Black Guy who runs around in a bikini and of course enters a hula competition. A few real women surfers play themselves, all in all the dykiest-looking bunch since the real baseball players at the end of A League of Their Own.

If you just want to groove on the surfing the plot doesn't get in the way too much. The cinematography and editing combine to give a real sense, not only of the thrill of surfing but how it feels to be trapped underwater after wiping out.

What's changed the most about surfing in 40 years is the music, which now leans toward hip hop. A new recording of "Cruel Summer" by Blestenation, including samples of the Bananarama version, fits right in the groove.

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