Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Movie Review: Does "Soul Surfer" Bite Off More Than It Can Chew?

Surf's up, dude!
If you have ever had to move a surfboard cross country more than once, than you gotta have some appreciation for the water!  Brett's surfboard has traveled from North Carolina to Arkansas to Mississippi and is now (in storage) in New York.  While he hasn't hit the waves in a while, he's always up for hanging ten-even if it is only on screen.

We caught a screening of Soul Surfer and had a chance to learn about the true story of Bethany Hamilton.  Set in the stunning backdrop of Hawaii, Bethany (played by AnnaSophia Robb) lives with her parents Thomas (Dennis Quaid) and Cherilyn (Helen Hunt) and her two brothers Noah (Ross Thomas) and Timothy (Chris Brochu).

Based on
Hamilton's book
The Hamiltons are a family of surfers.  Really tan surfers...with perfect teeth and rockin' bodies.  Home schooled, Bethany and her siblings are raised in and on the water.  A strong competitor, Bethany dreams of becoming a professional surfer.  She spends her time surfing and going to church, where she is involved in youth group.  One of Bethany's close friends is youth group leader Sarah Hill (played by Carrie Underwood) who asks her to accompany the group to a mission trip to Mexico.  Bethany turns the trip down, opting to stay behind in Hawaii in order to train for her next surfing competition.

On Halloween, 2003, Bethany is surfing with her best friend and competitor Alana Blanchard (Lorraine Nicholson), along with Alana's father and brother.  They are in a remote area along Tunnels Beach, Kauai when Bethany was attacked by a 15 foot tiger shark.  The shark severs Bethany's left arm and bites through her surfboard.  Alana's father (Kevin Sorbo) ties a tourniquet with a surf cord and rushes her to the hospital.  Bethany actually bumps her own father out of operating room, when his knee surgery is pushed aside for her emergency.

After losing 60% of her blood, doctors were able to save Bethany and she was released seven days later.  Less than a month after her attack, Bethany returned to the water and began surfing again.  The movie follows her struggle to surf and adapt to her new body.

almost a "thumbs up"
Bethany  Hamilton's story is an amazing, inspiring tale but sadly, scriptwriters drop the ball when it came to translating her dramatic story to the big screen.  Clumsy dialogue completely derails some of the more emotional moments as they awkwardly play out on film.  Hunt and Quaid give strong performances and Underwood tries really hard in her movie debut (bless her heart!) but we never really feel how tough the struggle is emotionally for Bethany.

Amazing CGI special effects do a wonderful job of transferring AnnaSophia Robb into Bethany Hamilton but the actual shark attack scene looks like clips spliced together from footage taken from the Deep Blue Sea editing room floor.  (Think Samuel L. Jackson)  The power of the life changing moment would have almost been better had it not been shown at all...rather through suggestion of what happened.

Soul Surfer reminds us how spectacular Hawaii is and how beautiful surf movies always seem to be made.  Bethany actually taught AnnaSophia Robb how to surf for the film and also performed the surfing scenes for her character.

Take a look: