You don't need filmmaker James Cameron to develop a truly riveting underwater adventure.

"The Ultimate Wave: Tahiti" is proof of that. This 3-D IMAX film packs in surfing, sea life, geography, history and spirituality in its brief running time. And we see surfing champion Kelly Slater as he seems to defy gravity on the waves.

Slater and fellow surfer Raimana Van Bastolaer converse while they await the perfect waves to test their skills. Through incredibly textured animation and graphics, we watch how the workings of the solar system have an effect on planet Earth and how waves are energized. Through easily understood moving diagrams, we see just how waves are affected by their geologic foundations.

The surfers are far from beach bums. They're highly trained athletes. In an astonishing sequence, we watch them training underwater as they carry huge stones in a competition to see who will be the last to drop his weight and swim to the surface.

We learn about the Polynesian culture and about the gods that are believed to control the elements that aren't always kind. We watch a gorgeous fire dance and enjoy its infectious rhythms.

The surfers talk about what draws people to the sport that can be dangerous and, ultimately, lethal. Some waves roll gently toward the land and others pound the shore, as well as their would-be riders. Under the waves, we meet the denizens of the glorious coral reef environment. Through beautiful animation, we watch as volcanoes form the chains of islands.

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How you could not be entertained and educated by this movie is beyond me. And let's face it: Could it possibly have opened at a better time than the aftermath of the Blizzard of '11? Talk about an island getaway. I didn't want to leave because I knew I'd soon be facing the reality of walls of snow.

What makes the movie even more enjoyable for audience members of every age is the magnificent 3-D and direction. You'll feel as though the water is just at your nose as you ride along with surfers. You might even find yourself trying to wipe away the water that splatters on the camera lens. I loved the sensation of motion that seeing the surfers up-close and in 3-D creates. And the scenery - whether underwater or on land - always provides glorious vistas of the area that is Tahiti.

Take your family there via the IMAX. It will warm you.


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