Johnny Tsunami Review
Theme Song by Brian Setzer and owned by Walt Disney Records
Nostalgia is Awesome! 

I just realized that I can now talk about my feelings toward sports movies. I’m not a big fan of sports, but I do like some movies about them. I like how they champion the under dog some of them do it in honorable and not so honorable ways. They tend to be optimistic stories about how the supposedly impossible can be achieved and that those with arrogance and abuse of power in their hearts will be punished in ways big and or small. Perhaps it’s because of this that sports movies never truly survived the 90s because of how clichéd and formulaic the movies are no matter what the sport. The lone exception to this is probably the Karate Kid seeing as it was more of how the sport completes a human being and truly giving a sense of honor, discipline, respect and the relationship and interaction between apprentice and master. But I’m not reviewing the Karate Kid today. Today I’m reviewing a fairly standard sports movie with all the clichés in tow. Good thing I don’t watch many sports movies otherwise I’d be sick and tired of these clichés, but since I don’t I can tolerate most of them. Johnny Tsunami is the last 1999 DCOM I’ll review.



The story of Johnny Tsunami tells the story of Johnny Kapahaala who lives in Hawaii and looks up to his grandfather also named Johnny as his primary role model. Johnny’s Grandpa or JOHNNY SR. as I’ll refer to him throughout the review is a famous surfer who is legendary for saving the crew of a crashed plane while facing dangerous and intense waves and was named Johnny Tsunami for that act of bravery as well as given a medallion that is given to the best surfer in Hawaii. Young Johnny like Johnny SR. loves to surf and shows excellent promise. Johnny’s father Pete isn’t like his son or Johnny SR. He is more practical and workaholic who regularly misses Johnny’s surfing competitions (gee sound familiar). Anyway Pete works as a software developer for computer operating systems and networks that specialize in installing the software and networks in schools across the country so he gets his first contract and he has to go install it at the high end prep school that bought it. The catch is that the prep school is in Vermont and the family has to move there! Johnny reluctantly leaves the world he loves and the normal new kid in town clichés go into effect.
After a chance encounter with a guy named Sam Johnny learns a similar passion to his love of surfing in snowboarding. 

He slowly but surely learns snowboarding and learns that the mountain belonged to a rich man, but he died and his family were combative in terms of inheritance so they decided to split the mountain down the middle with snowboarders on one side and skiers (the sport of Johnny’s academy) on the other. The unfairness comes from the fact that the skiers get the best runs and trails on the mountain and there are strict rules against crossing over to the other side. After  the conflict reaches a fever pitch when Johnny stands up to the bully that has been an ass to him since day 1 about  these rules Johnny gets fed up and along with Sam runs away from home back to Hawaii! Yes the film jumped the shark like that, but in a film about surfing I’m not surprised. After Johnny SR in a Mr. Miyagiesque ripoff kind of way convinces the boys to go back and being the awesome grandfather that he is decides to go Vermont along with them! After the next confrontation with the bully Johnny SR in all his awesomeness proposes a simple race between Young Johnny and the bully and the winner gets the surfing medallion and the right to pick and choose who can be on what side of the mountain (how they can do this without the consent of the land owners I have no idea), but the race turns out to be the most interesting thing that has ever happened to this community and everyone shows up. Of course Johnny wins retains his family’s medallion and even convinces the two fighting brothers who own the mountain to put aside their differences and everyone lives happily ever after.

This plot is actually solid despite all the really predictable elements of the sports movie formula and clichés, but this film presents itself much better than most and the clichés and the jumping the shark aspects don’t come out unless you’re really thinking about it (except for the running away from home thing cause that was stupid). The really good things come from certain scenes with the characters.


Even though the story is filled with clichés the characters with the exception of one are fairly strong. But one thing I hate is the bully cliché! Like Doug Walker I hate this cliché because it’s such a cheap and lazy way of completely contriving unnecessary conflict that demeans the really torturous and miserable experience of being bullied. And yes virtually every DCOM has a bully! Smart House had Ryan McGraw, Zenon had Margie, Tiger Town had that shrimpy kid who never should have been a bully! Susie Q’s bully was well handled because nobody took him seriously and didn’t take that bull crap. Unfortunately this film’s bully is completely 1 dimensional and is an ass for no reason at all even when he doesn’t have any ammunition to even bully the Johnny with. Also his taunts are completely juvenile and don’t fit the age of the character at all. Also the type of character that the bully is is the kind of person that is extremely arrogant and views anyone different from him and his way of thinking as inferior so if he thinks Johnny is beneath him then why won’t he LEAVE JOHNNY ALONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Anyway let’s talk about good characters.

Johnny Kapahaala: played by Brandon Baker

Johnny is your average sports movie protagonist. He’s not as sympathetic as Rocky or Rudy and doesn’t go through significant development and maturity like Daniel Laruso, but he’s solid enough. If you don’t mind this type of character then he’s okay.

Sam: played by Lee Thompson Young

Sam is played by popular Disney star at the time Lee Thompson Young who is famous for well The Famous Jett Jackson TV show and Jett’s television character Silverstone! Sam is interesting because he technically is the mentor character that teaches Johnny how to snowboard. He’s simply the best friend type when it comes to personality. Young’s performance does add an element of coolness to it and is certainly watchable.

Emily Pritchard: played by Kirsten Storms

Kirsten Storms plays the obvious love interest in the film and that’s pretty much it. She’s not given very much to do. In fact the romance seems kind of phoned in seeing as she only talks to Johnny 3-5 times in school and spends only one major scene in the middle and then being all lovey dovey at the end. I find it a complete waste of a person’s abilities and especially considering how charming and outgoing she was as Zenon this is a step backwards.

Johnny SR. (Tsunami): played by Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa

The grandfather is an awesome character, but he seems like Miyagi-Lite. Still the words of wisdom are good and did I mention he’s just awesome?! His relationship with his son is very interesting seeing as the theme of father-son relationships is prevalent. I’ll get more into that when I talk about Young Johnny’s Dad.

Pete Kapahaala: played by Yuji Okumoto

Pete Kapahaala, Young Johnny’s father is played by that evil guy in Karate Kid 2! Anyway he may appear to be the stereotypical neglectful father, but he actually has quite a few scenes where he tries to connect with his son. He tries to show him that a surfer’s life or a snowboarder’s life won’t provide for a family. It’s also noted that Johnny SR was a pro surfer and wasn’t exactly the best father and there was a falling out between Pete and Johnny SR and that creates a strained relationship and a difficult position for young Johnny. I find the strained relationship and eventual reconciliation of these two great characters to be much more interesting than Young Johnny’s story. But that’s just the story that me being an adult wants to see. I want to see these characters back when they got along when Pete and Johnny SR loved to surf and were happy and when the breaking point came. The scene where Johnny SR and Pete are talking on the porch is the best scene in the film and it shows off how well written and acted those two characters are!


There are no effects or anything, but the film does offer great shots of Hawaii and Vermont. The stunts were actually fairly impressive too and a good job was done in concealing the stuntmen/women that performed the moves so that it looked a lot like the actors.


If you’re not a fan of sports movies and you hate their clichés then you’re probably not going to like this with the exception of Pete and Johnny SR. I don’t mind the clichés because I don’t watch sports movies often enough to be annoyed by them. It’s a solid film minus the bully, but overall presents itself better than most and has good characters again minus the bully. Stay tuned next time when we return to Zenon and we review the sequels!!!!!!!!!!! OH BOY I AM NOT LOOKING FORWARD TO THOSE!!!!!!!!

Verdict: 3.5 snowboards out of 5 

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