Surfer, Dude

Crimes:

  • Being named Surfer, Dude 
  • Finalizing Matthew McConaughey’s sad descent from gifted young character actor/next Paul Newman to walking punchline 
  • Indulging in stoner minstrelsy in which every pot-smoker is a monosyllabic, party-hearty slacker who communicates solely in surfer slang 
  • Boasting a screenplay and plot so dire and witless, not even 85 minutes of Elliot Davis’ gorgeous cinematography and McConaughey shirtlessness can redeem it

Defender: Star, producer, and enemy of the shirt industry Matthew McConaughey

Tone of commentary: Casual, giggly, and strangely obsessed with sound editing. McConaughey has a charming/obnoxious habit of referring to everyone as “dude,” primarily himself and his character. In a shocking turn of events, McConaughey seems baked throughout the commentary, guffawing at stuff that isn’t even trying to be funny, giving props to his bros and half-naked beach bunnies, and lingering lovingly over limp gags. The filmmakers were particularly taken with the line, “Herb will get you through times with no money better than money will get you through times with no herb.” During a scene where the pot-smoking bros are ostensibly pulled over by the cops, McConaughey chortles, “Ha ha ha, we’ve all been there.” He clearly loves the fuck out of the film, calling it the “most pleasurable, creative thing I’ve done in my career to date.” Take that, Dazed And Confused! How many scenes of McConaughey playing the didgeridoo naked do you boast? 

McConaughey sees the film as an homage to the best parts of the ’60s—namely the parts that involve smoking weed and hanging with bros. For the edification of the home viewer, he delineates the myriad ways in which the filmmakers contrast the stony, organic, peace-and-love vibe of McConaughey and his buddies with the cold, corporate, soulless money-grubbing of the film’s reality-show villain. McConaughey delivers a never-ending stream of banalities in such a musical, infectious drawl that it can be easy to overlook the fact that he never says anything remotely interesting. It somehow seems unfair that someone should be blessed with such great beauty and a great voice.

What went wrong: Nothing, apparently. Surfer, Dude had a tiny budget and a tight shooting schedule (28 days) that necessitated shooting all of its Mexico scenes in Southern California over the course of several days. But McConaughey couldn’t be happier with it, as evidenced by his constant laughing and the many points in the commentary where he gets so wrapped up in the narrative of a surfer dude trying to score some sweet-ass waves and not sell out that he forgets to talk for extended periods of time.

Comments on the cast: McConaughey loves all his bros and praises them effusively. Of co-star Woody Harrelson, he enthuses, “This is my good man Woody Harrelson, man. Whatever it is, we turn each other on. We really have a comfort with each other… Always good value with Wood-man. Classic, classic wild man.” He’s even more taken with bit player Willie Nelson, who accepted the role of a stoner father figure without even looking at the script. In a scene involving Nelson and goats, McConaughey quips semi-coherently, “Goats and Willie Nelson; it’s like peanut butter and jelly.” Oh, but what could Harrelson, McConaughey, and Nelson possibly have to talk about? What surfer-friendly recreational activity could they have bonded over? A shared love of Russian literature? Profound concern about female genital mutilation in Africa? We may never know. McConaughey has ample praise for just about everyone in the cast, but only doles out stingy accolades for love interest Alexie Gilmore (who can currently be seen as Robin Williams’ incongruously attractive girlfriend in World’s Greatest Dad). 

Inevitable dash of pretension: McConaughey puts the difference between his character’s smoky house of über-hippie bliss joy and the cold, dispiriting realm of the reality-show house in musical terms: “In general terms, we could call Ad’s house the bassline and the reality house, the treble; Ad’s pad’s the natural, the reality house the dig-i-tail. Analog; digital. Bass/treble.” McConaughey describes a relatively subtle joke about immigration and Oxnard, California as “one you may get the second or third time you watch it” though it’s doubtful even the president of the Matthew McConaughey fan club has sat through Surfer, Dude more than once.

Commentary in a nutshell: “Now that I’m back home, it’s time to par-tay.”

Filed Under: DVD

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