Blue Crush

“Blue Crush” is an average film with above-average direction, acting and cinematography. Imagine a cadre of gourmet chefs taking over the kitchen at McDonald’s and you’ll get the idea: They’ll gussy it up as much as they can, but it’s still just a Big Mac.

It’s a great-looking Big Mac, though. Shot by director of photography David Hennings, the abundant surfing scenes are breathtakingly beautiful, and the roar of the waves comes across powerfully in Dolby sound.

Alas, it’s all surrounded by a pedestrian young-romance story set on the gorgeous beaches of Hawaii. Anne Marie (Kate Bosworth) is a surf bum who lives in a shanty with her two surf bum friends, Eden (Michelle Rodriguez) and Lena (Sanoe Lake), and her surf bum little sister, Penny (Mika Boorem). The four of them? Surf bums. The older girls work as hotel maids, but earn just enough money to keep them surfing.

Anne Marie and Penny’s mom took off awhile back, leaving Anne Marie to run things, which Penny doesn’t make any easier with her rebelliousness. (Squabbling Hawaiian sisters taking care of each other because the parents are gone? Yes, it’s “Lilo & Stitch: The Live-Action Drama.”)

Anne Marie was on the verge of surfing stardom a few years ago when she bonked her head on a rock, almost drowned, and thereafter lost the nerve. She still surfs, but she avoids challenges. Eden, though, is trying to boost Anne Marie’s skills and confidence in time for The Big Contest in a few weeks, The Big Contest being the surfing equivalent of The Big Game or The Big Tournament in other sports movies.

While in training, Anne Marie meets Matt (Matthew Davis), a hunky NFL quarterback who momentarily distracts her from what’s really important: surfing.

See, there’s some of the problem. It’s hard to be convinced of the great tragedy in someone exchanging a life of surfing for a brief fling. Usually the “what’s really important” that a film protagonist has to discover is family, love or patriotism. When it’s surfing … well, you lose me there.

Director John Stockwell has a way with actors, though. He directed “crazy/beautiful” last year, a surprisingly good film in which Kirsten Dunst and Jay Hernandez gave great depth to two teenage characters who might otherwise have been stereotyped and flat. “Blue Crush” is nowhere near as good as that, but the dialogue (written by Stockwell and Lizzy Weiss) does seem real and the performances are warm and natural.

At its heart, it’s only a sappy, high-cheekboned romance in which the central characters wear bathing suits most of the time and where the interpersonal dramas are wan and familiar. But “Blue Crush” manages to transcend some conventions of the genre and be just a little smarter, better and gentler.

And the surfing scenes are awesome, dude.

B- (1 hr., 44 min.; PG-13, scattered profanity, some gross humor, some sexual references, obscured partial nudity, a fistfight.)