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Soul Surfer

A movie directed by Sean McNamara

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A Young Girl, Her Family, Her Faith, Her Courage and Her Surfing Board....

  • Apr 10, 2011
Rating:
+3
Movies that feature a teen that finds her inner strength and overcomes the odds are exactly new. I know stories like this are usually built on cliché; and I have often said that sometimes (or oftentimes), life is cliché. “Soul Surfer” does have an incredible story to work with fortunately, as it dramatizes the life of pro-surfer Bethany Hamilton. She was a 13-year old with an incredible story to tell, as she faces the ultimate test of will and determination. Supported by her family, her friends and community, with her faith to rely on, Bethany faces the waves that took her arm and at the same time it renews her love for the oceanic environment and has given her a new perspective on life.

Bethany Hamilton (Anna Sophia Robb) is a young girl raised by parents (played by Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt) who love surfing and given the drive to compete by her brothers; seemed destined for a bright future in surfing. One day, while out on the waves training with her best friend, Alana (Lorraine Nicholson), Bethany is attacked by a shark and she loses her left arm. Returning from this tragedy is no easy task, as Bethany may have to make a new life without surfing. She looks for counsel through her youth pastor (Carrie Underwood) and support from her family and friends. With her love for the water and surfing unfazed, Bethany takes to the waters again, little does she know that she is shaping her own legendary story…

                        Dennis Quaid, Helen Hunt and AnnaSophia Robb in "Soul Surfer."

 Dennis Quaid, AnnaSophia Robb and Helen Hunt in "Soul Surfer."  Carrie Underwood as Sarah Hill in "Soul Surfer."

                           Bethany Hamilton and AnnaSophia Robb in "Soul Surfer."

I suppose even director Sean McNamara is sort of making a comeback after his recent 2007 live-action film “Bratz” as he weaves a tale about a teen, her religious faith, and a simple story about courage and comebacks. McNamara does keep things flowing and he maintains a balance between all the elements of the book with the same name. McNamara makes this biopic quite competent and honestly, very enjoyable; despite what I’ve read that this was originally slated to play in a limited number of theaters. He keeps things grounded as he avoids the film from becoming a countdown to the shark attack and a story of comebacks. Don’t misunderstand me, the film is all those things, but I liked the way he kept the film sincere and rewarding with its endearing themes of family, perseverance and courage and even maintains a coherent execution amidst the potentials for a chaotic premise.

Yes, Bethany’s family had strong religious values and yes, the film is a simple, straight-forward tale of recuperation and sporting fortitude, but McNamara never drowns his audience with either one or the other. The direction remembered to pay attention to Bethany’s family as he also gives the community where she lives in their needed exposure. In this way, McNamara also takes his time to develop the lead character, and while the religious overtones were strong throughout, it was carefully defined by the direction; it never feels like a recruitment drive but rather, it really feels like a real ingredient that defined this family. (I did notice that some of Bethany’s real interviews were altered though) The elements were given solidarity as it defined Bethany as a free-spirited, courageous young girl with a very strong moral code. Bethany is shown as a loving girl who loves her family and even with her competitive nature, she maintains that sense of respect towards her fellow competitors.

                        

                       

It also helps when Robb just comes in with quite an endearing performance as the lead. I know she looked a lot older than the real Bethany was, but Robb was good for the role. Quaid and Hunt makes for a good pair but I truly had mixed feelings about Carrie Underwood’s performance. McNamara does come out with some spectacular scenes of surfing. I was truly impressed how he managed to get each shot that seemed to complement the next. I truly felt that I was riding the waves myself. The film is gorgeous, and the beauty of the landscape is just stunning. I also liked the fact that McNamara didn’t cheapen the shark attack itself. He makes it suspenseful and I was made to be concerned with what would happen next. It never feels sensationalized and the scenes seemed to fly by rather quickly. It does have the feel of a horrific event though, and it felt quite natural.

“Soul Surfer” is a simple film with a fine articulation for the life of a young woman, whose tragic turn in her life became her one defining moment. I know some parts of the film seemed to dawdle a little too much, but I never felt manipulated or fooled by the film. It is easy to dismiss a film with all these ingredients, but McNamara has made a competent motion picture that maintained its veracity even when it came dangerously close to canned drama. I also loved the way the film ended; as you see the pure passion Bethany has for her sport. Competition is not for proving yourself in the eyes of others, but for the fellowship and respect that comes from it. See how quickly honor is followed by victory? That is a timeless message that we all need to be reminded.

Recommended! [3 ½ Out of 5 Stars]
 
Poster art for "Soul Surfer."  AnnaSophia Robb as Bethany Hamilton in "Soul Surfer."
 
 
 
A Young Girl, Her Family, Her Faith and Courage and Her Surfing Board....

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June 02, 2013
I got more out of the documentary that comes on the DVD.
 
October 24, 2011
The pictures were great and the story was inspiring.
 
May 18, 2011
Great review and it sounds like an inspiring movie; one that I need to see with my daughter!!
May 18, 2011
yes, that would be the best way to see it!
February 10, 2012
We finally got to see it; in fact my daughter taped it and watches it a lot. I liked it but more important, the message of faith and determination was inspiring for Brandi.
 
April 19, 2011
The way you write your review, well, sounds to me it ought to be a 4.5 or a 5. Why is it a 3.5?
April 19, 2011
Oh, I hate sharks, LOL!!!
April 19, 2011
I love sharks....especially Great whites, they're one of the most fascinating animals on the planet. LOL! That is actually a great question, I actually scored this movie as a 3.75 rounded up to a 4 since I did like it a lot. The reason why I gave it a 3.5 is becuase while I appreciated the execution and how the direction kept things grounded, it still came close to being overly dramatic and it is a story (while true) built on a simple formula.

I liked the film, but there were obvious changes to the real event and of what happened; to avoid turning off viewers. Still a very good film and great for what it was intended to be, but at the risk of spoiling it, there was something missing that it didn't hit a solid home run.
 
April 12, 2011
I'm interested in this one. It's always nice to see encouraging films for teens that are actually put together well. The main actress looks like a good fit for the role too.
April 13, 2011
One thing I neglected to mention was that the CGI effects on her arm was also pretty well done. There was only one scene that showed very small pixelation, it was nice! This was cliched and everyone knows what happened, but gosh, it was tight and easy to watch. I liked it, and you know how I prefer depressing movies over inspirational ones.
April 13, 2011
Always nice to know that the CGI helped make a film better. I wondered about whether her arm looked realistic or not. Despite knowing the story, it still sounds like a good watch. I will probably save it as a rental.
 
April 11, 2011
Great review once more WP
April 11, 2011
Thanks, Alex!
 
April 11, 2011
Good to see another positive review! But..uh...Carrie Underwood? That doesn't sound good...
April 11, 2011
Nope it wasn't good at all. She was so wooden that she almost floated like a log LOL!
April 11, 2011
Carrie Underwood's acting was wooden? How appropriate!
 
April 10, 2011
Rental. These inspirational true story films are too cliche and too commercial for my taste. I prefer the more harrowing stuff where there aren't always survivors but you at least learn something.
April 10, 2011
Yeah, I know and I agree. We did a coin toss for the last $$ on my giftcard (expiring in 3 days), and this ended up being the choice. I may still be driven to see "Your Highness" since I love Portman LOL!
April 11, 2011
....and guess what, I was indeed driven and lured to see it. LOL! 
April 11, 2011
It's gotten horrible reviews (in fact, I just called the theatre and everything that's playing has gotten horrible reviews), but at least that one looks stupidly entertaining.
April 11, 2011
Portman was just so sexy as a warrior-woman. She did so well that I am kinda hoping for a sequel....imagine me wishing for a sequel for a mediocre-fair film LOL!
April 11, 2011
We all lose our objectivity regarding plot when it comes to Natalie Portman.
April 11, 2011
....as the tagline for "Your Highness" goes...."Natalie Portman is mighty fine" LOL!!
April 11, 2011
I cannot believe that this review is getting more reads than "Hanna"...
April 11, 2011
I can't believe you're keeping track. LOL!
April 12, 2011
not exactly, but it was just right there in my face. I found it weird since I was exhausted when I wrote this review. LOL!
 
April 10, 2011
I'm curious: Was this movie heads or tails on the coin toss?
April 10, 2011
This was heads when we tossed it. Why so curious?
April 10, 2011
That's just who I am. Anyway, it sounds like we pretty much agree on this one. It is a bit cliche, but considering the audience it was geared towards, I thought it was adequate.
April 10, 2011
Agreed. I was surprised with the way McNamara executed the story, it was simple and yet it was truly filled with sincerity and careful timing. I was also very impressed with the shots of the surfing event.
 
1
More Soul Surfer reviews
review by . October 15, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
"What does it feel like?"     After the question of just how my deformed arm came to be deformed, that's probably the question people ask me the most. My answer to the question has never changed: I can't give an honest, accurate view of exactly what it FEELS like to have a short arm, an immobile wrist, and only half of a hand. I don't feel qualified to give an answer to such a question, because I've never had anything else to compare it to. This deformity is something I was born …
review by . April 04, 2011
               When is there a better time to have a truly inspirational movie than during these current harsh economical times?  Nowadays it seems we could all use a little bit of a push towards our fight for a happy life.  Whether it’s a financial hardship, a personal insecurity, or simply the cons of learning to surf - Soul Surfer will teach that the human mind is capable of achieving the impossible.  …
review by . April 09, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         If Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours was meant to inspire adults, Soul Surfer is a film perfectly suited to inspire younger audiences. Both are true stories about thrill seekers who lose a limb due to the forces of nature; this time around, the subject is Hawaii native and champion surfer Bethany Hamilton, who on October 31, 2003, at the age of thirteen, had her left arm bitten off by a shark. Despite her handicap and the obvious emotional shock, she …
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William ()
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Please "Like" Film and Movies and Keep the Economy strong....LOL!!      My Interests: Movies, Anime, History, Martial Arts, Comics, Entertainment,Cooking, Things I don't … more
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About this movie

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A teenage surfer girl summons the courage to go back into the ocean after losing an arm in a shark attack.
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Details

Director: Sean McNamara
Genre: Action, Drama, Sport
Release Date: 8 April 2011 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG
Runtime: 106 min
Studio: Brookwell-McNamara Entertainment, Enticing Entertainment, Island Film Group
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