As far as documentaries go, Step Into Liquid is not especially deep nor powerful. For the most part, it is just a higher-budgeted version of a "Best Surfing Moments" video. Nevertheless, that doesn't mean you can't have fun watching it.
Director Dana Brown attempts to explore the world of surfing and break through the stereotype that surfers are just a bunch of beach bums. While she does prove that some of the best surfers in the world are not just beach bums because they are paid lots of money by sponsors, she generally fails to show that surfers are much more than people who seem not to have time to work and make money. One man she shows has been surfing every day for the last 20 years (or some other amazingly long amount of time); there's nothing wrong with that, but does that mean that he has never traveled anywhere else in the world? When does he work?
One thing that differentiates this movie from a video that shows the best surfing clips is that Brown looks at surfers of all skill levels and ages to see what makes surfing so great. The idea behind the movie is that it is not about how big the wave is but how far people are willing to go; those that ride four-foot waves might get just as much of a kick out of surfing as those that ride 66-foot waves. Unfortunately, what Brown fails to realize is that for a lot of us, we do not want to see middle-aged men riding motorboat waves in Lake Michigan. In other words, the movie is most entertaining when the big waves are on the screen, and since that is the case, what makes this movie so special compared to direct-to-video ventures?
Step Into Liquid does feature some fairly impressive camera locations; Brown has employed divers to film the surfers from all angles, including under the surface. There are some absolutely beautiful shots of surfers from below the surface of the wave.
There is nothing inherently wrong with Step Into Liquid, but it is hard to see what makes this movie so much better than an ordinary "clips" video. The attempt to pierce the stereotype of surfers really doesn't work at all, and when the movie meanders into the less-exciting aspects of surface, the film loses its appeal.
If you like surfing or if you like to see some very impressive surfing action, Step Into Liquid is a good choice. Still, aside from some of the visuals, it isn't all that much different - and perhaps less entertaining - than "Best Of" videos.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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