Monday, April 4, 2011

DIFF review SOUL SURFER- She said

Directed by Sean McNamara
Written by Sean McNamara and Deborah Schwartz
Starring: AnnaSophia Robb, Helen Hunt, Dennis Quaid, and Carrie Underwood.

SOUL SURFER is the true story about Bethany Hamilton, an up-and-coming amateur surfer in Hawaii who had her arm bit off by a shark.  She was on the verge of breaking into the big time with surfing and just landed a sponsor before her accident.  Even though she's determined to get back on her board, she struggles and gives up.  Then after an inspirational mission trip to Thailand, she finds the courage again and gets back on in time for the big championship.

The film lends itself not as an inspirational sports movie, but more of a glorified Lifetime movie.  Yes, the story itself is very inspirational and uplifting.  I cannot imagine the internal strength it took the real Bethany to get back into the water.  However, the acting from most of the cast, with the exception of AnnaSophia Robb, seemed cheesy and forced.  Before the incident, the family would regularly have sand fights, surfing competitions, and did almost everything together just short of breaking out into songs.  And even if you've never heard of this story before watching the movie, you know exactly where the plot is going. Almost every cliche action and phrase from an overcoming adversity movie is explored, and honestly, gets tiresome. Robb ends up being the stand out performer.  This young actress is charming as Bethany, and develops a wonderful arc taking us through the ups and downs as Bethany struggles.

Rather than completely focus on the determination and hard work it took Bethany to get back in competition mode, the film curves into a more Christian themed focus.  The real-life Bethany is very religious, so there would be a fine line for the filmmakers to tell her story.  So, it tends to lean more about how her faith pushed her, including some Bible quotes, and will detour some who would otherwise see it.

Despite it's lack-luster story telling, SOUL SURFER is a gorgeous movie.  The cinematography of the surfing competitions brings a unique and beautiful perspective from the water.  Hence the comment of a glorified Lifetime movie.  The surfing sequences are user friendly and exciting, and the girls make it look easy.  Though I'm going to try my hand at it anytime in the near future. 

There's an audience for this movie.  It's very family friendly, even with the intense attack.  The message is one of faith and courage to overcome adversity.  It doesn't hold ranks with sports movies like REMEMBER THE TITANS, but the young tween crowd will enjoy it.  Plus it's very pretty to look at. 

SOUL SURFER opens nationwide April 8, 2011.

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