What You Need To Know:
SOUL SURFER has very poignant moments that will bring tears to your eyes. It has one of those endings that make the movie work, despite some light weight scenes. Anna Sophia Robb as Bethany gives a wonderful performance. A cast of veterans provides great support. The good news is that real courage comes from deep faith in Jesus Christ, not just willpower. There are powerful church scenes, but they shouldn’t alienate secular viewers because they are extremely real. Bravo!
(CCC, BBB, VV, N, A, M) Very strong Christian, moral worldview lifting up God’s Grace in song, word and deed about a girl whose faith sustains her through real tragedy; no foul language; intense but not graphic violence when shark bites off girl’s arm with a quick cutaway and minor violence when she has to adjust to having no arm and falls, and lots of perilous surfing situations with gigantic waves and undertows; husband and wife kiss several times; men and women in bathing suits, but no sexual nudity, and some of the girls are curvaceous; beer drinking; no smoking but light references to pain medicine; and, some minor indiscretions such as staying out late without parent’s permission and not keeping one’s word but rebuked.
SOUL SURFER is a powerful, encouraging and poignant story that brings tears to the eye and joy to the heart. It has a great cast, but please note that the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts.
The movie tells the famous true story of Bethany Hamilton, a rising star on the teenage surfing circuit who loses her arm in a shark attack. Bethany, played wonderfully by AnnaSophia Robb, is, as her mother says, a mermaid. She’s surfed since early childhood in front of her parents’ house on the island of Kauai in Hawaii. Her whole family lives to surf and is very competitive. She has two older brothers, Noah and Timothy, who drive her to excel, as does her father, Tom. Her mother, Cheri, adds some balance to the family.
The movie opens with wonderful Gospel music, in a very happening, live Christian service in a tent on the beach. Bethany wins a surf competition, beating her best friend, Alana, played by Lorraine Nicholson, Jack Nicholson’s daughter, and her fiercest rival, Malia Birch. As a result, a sponsor approaches Alana and Bethany for their surfing career. Bethany decides not to go on a mission trip, disappointing Sara Hill, her youth group leader.
On Halloween Day, Bethany is surfing with her friend, Alana, and Alana’s family near a remote beach. A 14-foot tiger sharp leaps out of the water and eats her arm.
Alana’s father, Holt, played by Kevin Sorbo, and the other members of her family rush Bethany to the hospital. Everyone is praying fervently to God. Miraculously, she survives.
When Bethany leaves the hospital, she finds out life has changed irrevocably. Simple tasks are now almost impossible. She tries surfing again and struggles, but shows some promise.
After a dark night of the soul [SPOILTER ALERTS], where she questions God’s verse that says that we can do all things through Him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13), she decides to go on a mission trip to an area of Thailand hit by a big tsunami. There, she learns God uses all things together for good to those who love Him. She returns home, with new resolve to become a champion surfer again.
SOUL SURFER has some very poignant moments that will bring tears to your eyes. The screening room audience walked out of the theater filled with joy at Bethany’s victory. It is one of those strong endings that make a movie work.
That said, some of the movie is very lightweight. Some of it is intentionally shot like a home movie, and some other scenes seem like a home movie. And, some of the dialogue is soft.
None of this matters, however, because the whole is greater than all of its part, and the whole is a powerful, inspirational story of real courage overcoming all odds.
The good news is that the real courage comes from deep faith in Jesus Christ, not just willpower. There are powerful church scenes in SOUL SURFER, but they shouldn’t alienate a secular audience because they are extremely real. The movie asks the profound theological question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Bethany finds an answer that is inspirational.
Many of the cast and crew are known for doing faith-filled roles. Many of them were quoted in the press notes saying that meeting Bethany and hearing her story as well as meeting her family was a life-changing experience.
SOUL SURFER is a highly recommended movie.