Movie Review: “Ocean Boy” (“Bosch & Rockit”) comes of age amid Big Waves and family dysfunction

A kid who longs to grow up to be a pro surfer rides waves and surfs through the shoals of a seriously dysfunctional home life in “Ocean Boy,” which was titled “Bosch & Rockit” in Australia, where this “true story” really happened.

Tyler Atkins is a model and reality TV star who won Australia’s version of “Amazing Race” and banked that notoriety to make a fictionalized account of growing up inthee water and even on the lam when he was supposed to be in school, thanks to his irresponsible parents.

It’s sentimental, a kind of corny, cliched coming-of-age picture with just enough “ocean” to it to feel exotic, with pretty settings and prettier actors dressing-up an idealized take on a childhood that couldn’t have been any picnic, no matter how much dramatic license he takes with it.

But Luke Hemsworth of “West World” and the down-and-dirty drugs-and-dropouts settings make it worth a look, if not a film to really sink your teeth into.

“Bosch” is a farm lad gone to seed, a single dad with a pot-growing-and-distributing business that pays the bills and keeps the kid in surfboards.

Rockit, played by Rasmus King, is a blond Adonis in his early teens, but a product of such tuned-out parenting that the kids in school bully the pretty boy they call “Dum Dum.”

Mum’s not in the picture, and from Dad’s illegal business, free-spending (vintage Mach I Mustang) and womanizing ways, we can think of a few reasons that’s the case.

The kid’s just looking for any excuse to surf at dawn and cut school.

It all goes sideways when the old-mate/dirty cop Bosch is in business with lets an even dirtier detective (Martin Sacks) in on their operation. His suggestion that they start “making some real money” isn’t a suggestion.

“We’re farmers here, we don’t SELL coke” falls on deaf ears. One ill-timed bush fire later, Bosch sees their whole lives go up in flames, revealing their business to legitimate police, but with a lot of payola and cocaine lost as well. The dirty wants to get to him first.

Bosch grabs some cash and the kid and they go “on holiday.”

They can’t give their real names, can’t use credit cards and can’t make plans past camping on a far-off beach, or moving into a “surfer motel.” Not that this slows Bosch’s roll when the fetching Bev (Isabel Lucas) crosses his field of view.

Atkins and his co-writer Drue Metz do a decent job of making the “like father/like son” stuff funny and sometimes unsettling. Rockit curses just just like dad and picks up a blunt because “YOU do it.” He buys Dad’s “My real job” whopper, and blithely swipes enough cash to buy a new surfboard.

When your father’s so unconcerned for your well-being that he can’t be bothered to feed you or alter his “get a date” impulses to buy groceries, the kid learns to put himself first and last, just like the old man.

The period piece milieu — it wasn’t THAT long ago — feels lived-in and credible. Maybe you could lay low like this in pre-Internet Oz. And I always get a kick out of any fresh serving of Aussie slang, “Blow ins” being tourists, “grommet” a small kid, and so on.

Hemsworth makes a fine, burly presence at the heart of this, and we see much of their life and his travails from his point of view. The messaging, about how loving your kid isn’t enough to make you a good parent, goes down easy the way Hemsworth plays it. He’s a lout, and lovable at it.

But the comic bits are strained,. A clumsily-handled introduction of young love (Savannah La Rain) and the third act arrival of ever-absent Mum (Leanna Walsman) have to fit in between less and less frequent updates on the manhunt underway for Bosch.

“Ocean Boy” is awkward and ungainly — as if made by someone determined to hit his life’s real-or-fictional waypoints, to gloss up his own image while playing up the obstacles he had to overcome, but incapable of managing any of that particularly gracefully.

Rating: unrated, drug abuse, violence, profanity

Cast: Luke Hemsworth, Rasmus King, Isabel Lucas, Leanna Walsman and Martin Sacks.

Credits: Directed by Tyler Atkins, scripted by Tyler Atkins and Drue Metz. A Gravitas Ventures release.

Running time: 1:46


About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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