Soul Surfer



By Gary “Big Kauai” Murray


Starring AnnaSophia Robb, Helen Hunt, Dennis Quaid, Lorraine Nicholson, Carrie Underwood and Kevin Sorbo


Written by Sean McNamara and Deborah Schwartz


Directed by Sean McNamara


Running time 105 min


MPAA Rating PG


Selig Film Rating Matinee


The story of Bethany Hamilton made international news a few years back.  The run-in the young surfer had with a shark which cost the girl her arm was all over television cable channels.  The most remarkable part was her eventual rise back to world class surfing status.  The tale of this extraordinary young woman is the focus of the family friendly film Soul Surfer.  

The film opens with Bethany being a normal teenager in Hawaii, surfing and swimming.  This is an angelic life, full of sun and fun.  With her and her best buddy Alana (Lorraine Nicholson) they seem more like mermaids frolicking on the crests.   Bethany’s parents (Randy Quaid and Helen Hunt) are free spirits who live and die by the water.  The kids all home school and all surf with young Bethany being a junior level champion. 


This girl just seems to have a charmed life until that fateful day when the shark takes her arm.  Director Sean McNamara keeps it very PG by not showing the attack but the panicked aftermath.  There are all the scenes one would expect, with worried parents and friends to the eventual media blitz. 


The film is about how Bethany learns to get back on the board and get back on with life, finding out that nothing in the world is normal and that anyone can overcome difficulty.  It is an inspiring tale of triumph. 


The film is also very spiritual, with questioning why God does what he does.  Carrie Underwood plays the youth minister at the church who tried to help Bethany understand what happens.  Bethany is full of self pity and loathing until the minister takes the kids on a mission of mercy to a grief stricken country.  Young Bethany finds that her loss of limb pales to those who have lost everything.


Soul Surfer lives and breathes the ocean lifestyle.  Every shot is picture perfect and every person on screen is a tanned deity.   The film is such an homage to The Endless Summer, the old documentary that turned the planet onto surfing just as much as the Beach Boys did.  Bethany even has a poster from the movie on her wall.   This film could make yet another rush of youngster to the sand. 


The adults of Soul Surfer are all in supporting roles.  Dennis Quaid, Helen Hunt and Kevin Sorbo all take a back seat to the kids.  All do great jobs in their small parts but this film is by and for youth.


Young AnnaSophia Robb sparkles in the role of Bethany.  She gives the audience that girl next door charm while showing a can-do spirit of a competing athlete.  She is the kind of character that girls will want to become and guys will respect.  Her struggle mirrors the struggles kids have in adjusting in the world, just to a greater degree. 


Soul Surfer is a flick made for young girls and it works on that level.  Sure, it is a bit cheesy but it has great scenery and a positive message, something lacking in so many films today. 

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