Though it's approximately two subplots too thick, 45 minutes too long, and 40 square feet too small to be an IMAX movie, Blue Crush contains enough exciting surf scenes that it could almost get by on visceral thrills alone. Digital tweaking surely played a role, but it's hard to tell—or to care, as the camera drifts inside, behind, and then under the waves, or simply takes in the action from an elevated distance. Blue Crush nicely demonstrates how Hawaii's first surfers came to regard the pastime as sacred: When it works, it looks like humanity and nature finding a rare moment of balance. When it fails, it looks like the vengeance of an angry planet. Of course, there's a good reason why IMAX hasn't made proper films irrelevant, and Blue Crush thankfully remembers that, too. Director and co-writer John Stockwell brings to the film the uncommonly sensitive touch he demonstrated in last year's Crazy/Beautiful, and as with that wrong-side-of-the-tracks melodrama, he scarcely seems aware that formula and familiarity are forcing him on an uphill journey. Here, he takes on the sports film, following an underdog hero (Kate Bosworth) and her loyal gang (Michelle Rodriguez, real-life women's-surfing scion Sanoe Lake) as they prepare for the largest female surfing competition to date. A reluctant competitor, having nearly drowned in a previous event (a fact reiterated time and again), Bosworth has to overcome more than fear alone: An absent mother has left her to care for a younger sister who's quickly budding into a delinquent, and her job at a luxury hotel barely covers the rent. The film makes working through these issues as much a part of the drama, and as tricky a task, as negotiating "triple overhead" waves. Blue Crush doesn't keep much from its credited source, Susan Orlean's magazine article "Surf Girls Of Maui," but it keeps the sense of camaraderie that piece conveyed, and even when the story takes an unlikely turn involving a visiting NFL team, the cast's easy rapport and natural acting style keeps it grounded. Stockwell and his cast make it easy to care about these characters, and easy to worry once the waves start crashing. For all their beauty, the surf scenes convey a real sense of danger. The thrills arrive hard-won, and not just because they're expected, which makes Blue Crush the kind of hot-weather pleasure that's unlikely to spoil once the season passes.