Dave White
Soul Surfer Review

Dave's Rating:

2.5

The cross and the surfboard

Who's In It: AnnaSophia Robb, Helen Hunt, Dennis Quaid, Carrie Underwood, Kevin Sorbo, Craig T. Nelson, Lorraine Nicholson

The Basics: Bethany Hamilton (Robb) is the real-life 13-year-old surfer who lost her arm in a shark attack and then, weeks later, got back into the ocean to keep training for competition. And you don't have to do much internet digging on Hamilton to know what caused her to have that kind of resolve--it was Jesus. The kid just happens to come from a family of really chill, Acai smoothie-drinking surfers who also sit around at breakfast quoting wisdom from the book of Jeremiah, and to strip her story of that integral element would be like making a movie about Liberace and pretending he wasn't gay.

What's The Deal: It would be a lie to say that this movie rises above sports film clichés. It doesn’t. It would also be untrue to say that it’s especially well-written or directed. It’s not. At its best it’s a high-quality, extremely blond TV movie, one with no surprises or challenges, where everything you expect it to be is laid out well in advance of the closing credits. As inspiration it’s pretty uninspiring. But its faults are almost redeemed by the one thing it does very well, which is to depict modern evangelical Christians like fully formed human beings. No one’s obnoxious, no one’s hateful, no one’s being raptured alongside Kirk Cameron or preaching or wearing a vacant Stepford smile; they’re just people who happen to talk about God a lot. And in a Hollywood landscape where this type of character is usually ignored or treated as the object of satire or, worse, ghettoized in some of the most laughable faith-based projects you've never seen (try watching C Me Dance sometime if you don't believe me), that’s almost a miracle.

I'm Sorry, Did I Say It Wasn't Laughable? I Was Kidding: Fans of cheese with extra cheese still have a reason to check this out. For starters there's the presence of Carrie Underwood, a woman who has just trounced Justin Guarini in the contest of “Who Is the Worst Actor Ever to Come from American Idol?” When this thing hits cable, make sure to fast forward to the part where they go on a mission trip to Thailand to help tsunami victims. Witnessing Underwood clumsily wrap bandages around a Thai extra’s head is the stuff that endlessly looped YouTube videos are made of.

And Then There's Jaws: The filmmakers were smart. They didn't linger long on their extremely fake shark. It pops out of the water, bites the arm off, then makes a quick getaway. You don't have much time to goof on its falsehoods. But then they stopped being smart and went for the cheap jolt instead of for a payoff to a suspenseful build-up, so its execution is almost exactly like the hilarious gotcha moment when Sam Jackson gets eaten in Deep Blue Sea.

See Also: Bridge to Terabithia, which also stars young AnnaSophia Robb as a middle-school-aged atheist whose friendship with two churchgoing kids affects all of them in surprising ways.

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Comments (13)

Karen - 4-08-2011 11:00 AM
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I saw this movie in a sneak preview. Your review is spot on. I also liked the fact that teens were not depicted as manipulative and back-stabbing. Your comment about Carrie Underwood was perfect. Was it only me who was bothered by her earrings and full makeup in Thailand? I mean, really.

Kaylee - 4-09-2011 12:36 PM
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I thought that it was a very inspiring movie. I think they picked all of the right actors for this movie! Well done!

Zulu Warrior - 4-09-2011 10:00 PM
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1) The Cross and the Surfboard...that made me laugh out loud. 2) Kevin Sorbo? Really?

ttgirl - 4-11-2011 11:20 AM
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It is sad that you Mr. White has to write a nasty preview. What is wrong with people not hating and having faith. This is what this world is lacking. You sir have to maybe just preview the movies that have sex, drugs and alcohol. Loved the movie, I was inspired and I am happy I took my daughter to see it Anything positive is a good thing. My daughter was inspired.

Robbie - 4-11-2011 4:05 PM
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Hey ttgirl. He was saying that the Christian stuff was done well in this movie did you read the review. Everything thing else was lame. Your acting like one of the crazies who are usually in all the d rated faith films. Chill pill.

Ray - 4-13-2011 10:46 AM
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Ok.. I have a little comment about this...Why are Christians or anyone with Faith in something always now bashed by HOLLYWOOD...What is worng with having convictions? What is wrong with not having sex, issues with drugs, alcohol, etc. If there is nothing beyond this life.. than everything we go through in this life, even the good IS NOT WORTH ANYTHING--ASK YOUR SELF THE QUESTION.."WHAT IF?" I am tired of going to see movies, and seeing REVIEWS of movies, where JESUS/GOD is made fun of. This movie is GOOD..GO SEE IT!

Ami - 4-15-2011 6:03 AM
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@Ray: As if everyone movie with Jesus/God is good. Protip: Majority aren't.

Rob - 4-16-2011 1:00 AM
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@ttgirl @ray not every film about christianity is good. It's like movies about christianity get a pass because of their "subject matter." That pisses me off. Get BOTH of your minds out of the gutter.

jess - 5-06-2011 1:03 PM
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wat is wit all u ppl this movie was VERY inspirational it helped me see that life aient all about sex drugs and wanna be thugs its about being urself an living life to the fullest so ALL U HATERS BACK OFF AN MOVE ON WITH LIFE AND MIND UR OWN BUSSINESS an to ray an ttgirl i luv ur comments it is very very true :) i luv how u stick up for the truth an anyone who wants to hate on that GET A DAMN LIFE!!!!!!!!

Eric D - 5-08-2011 4:23 PM
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While the other poster's lament about how bad the movie is and trash the people in it, thus reflecting their own inadequacies and short-comings, as human beings, at least the one "hater" has shown his face. Bravo! The comment, by Dave White, calling the movie an, "extremely blond, TV movie," would suggest he has a propensity for blondes but cannot seem to "land" one. Blondes who would prefer to throw rocks at him rather than speak to him directly. How truly unfortunate that White, the grandiloquent individual that he is, should compose this rhetoric in a manner that might also suggest he has a propensity for stalking movie stars. Because he hasn't the aire of a gentleman, but rather a personality one might confuse with that of Charles

josh H - 6-22-2011 4:52 PM
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@Eric D lol I love when people get their thesaurus out to make a point. Or I guess I should say not really make a point. Thanks for trying, you're such a grandiloquent.

Calvin - 8-03-2011 9:01 PM
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I'm pretty sure the real life events are much much more inspiring than this waste of time. Very boring, very predictable, bad writing, horrible directing. Ugh. I feel for the real life woman, I'm sure it was horrible, and took a lot to come back as she did. As a movie, depicted as it has been here, so boring, bland, and just flat-out preachy.

Courtney - 8-15-2011 9:32 AM
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It's sad that this didn't get a good rating just because it was "bland". I for one was very moved by this story, and I absolutely ADORE this movie. Sure, there's maybe a bad graphic shark, but that's not the message. This was Bethany's life, and I'm thankful that I had some insight to it. It showed me how if I'm going through a rough time, I can get right back up and keep going, no matter how big or small the situation is. I think some people look at little things in this movie just to criticize it because they don't like the genre. Carrie's make-up, shark, petty things. Like Carrie's message in the movie, get a new perspective, you're looking at this movie a little too closely and not getting the whole meaning of it.

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