Endless Summer II, The

Narrated by Bruce Brown

Bruce Brown's The Endless Summer II, the sequel to his sleeper hit of three decades ago, offers everything you've always wanted to know about surfing–and more. Exciting surfing sequences, which are ravishingly photographed, are contained in a travelogue that is part National Geographic, part adventure and part documentary. Despite high-adrenaline action, a structure that is a bit schematic and narration that is not always fresh or funny should keep enthusiasm, and boxoffice results, at a solid level, though surfing fans and devotees should have a field day.

Over the past 30 years, the novelty of surfing has worn out: There have been TV programs and even narrative films (Big Wednesday, Point Break) about this exciting sports. This creates a problem of how to make an entertaining, feature-length film that will go beyond lensing exhilarating pyrotechnics of endless searching and catching of the "perfect wave." In his new outing, director and co-writer Brown, who popularized surfing to the mass 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 short board, 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, which claims two surfers in what is not exactly an ideal setting or climate for the sport. Through their wide-eyed curiosity and endless summers, viewers discover for themselves the international allure of surfing.

However, 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 its dangerous animals (kodiak bears, wild elephants, alligators, poisonous snakes, hungry lions), meetings with its local surfers (some international champions)–and more sumptuous footage in and under water.

The young men are appealing and their pyrotechnics always exciting to watch, but they're seldom given a chance to use their own voices, share with the audience personal thoughts and feelings about their passion. Pic offers only glimpses 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.

Though narrator Brown stresses that surfing has become prevalent in the U.S. to now include boys and girls, men and women, the impression one gets is that it's still very much a male-dominated enterprise–excepting some local femmes that add color to the "plot," there are no female surfers.

Enjoying a much bigger budget, larger crew, and more sophisticated equipment than what original pic had, Endless Summer II boasts a spectacular scenery and 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, the film is too long by at least 20 minutes.

Endless Summer II is dedicated to distinguished crew member Beverly Johnson, who lost her life in a helicopter accident while returning from a ski trip on Easter Sunday l994.