It usually bothers me when inspirational true stories like "Soul Surfer" don't gain any attention out of movie-goers nowadays. What happened to "Secretariat"? Sure, that movie had Hollywood written all over it, and I'm sure some things were changed for the sake of entertainment, but we hardly get movies like this anymore so when they do come out, we should make them count. Anyways, with "Soul Surfer", I'm kind of glad this movie isn't getting any of the little attention it deserves. This is the movie that people will eventually remember when it comes out on DVD, give it a watch, and really wish they gave it a chance when it first came out. Hopefully the film will get its chance at that. It's the people who did give this movie a shot, though, that know how decent this movie actually is and that this is the most underrated film of 2011 thus far. It is those who are skipping this one based on cheesy trailers that are missing out on something actually inspirational.
I walked into "Soul Surfer" only knowing one little detail from the film: it was a true story of a teenage surfer who loses her arm to a shark attack. I never knew who Bethany Hamilton was and after watching this movie, and seeing all the attention she gained from the media, I'm surprised that I've never read about her story before. This is another reason why true stories like this should be seen, not based on how the film is made by our standards, but to learn of the character's story because if I've never heard of Bethany Hamilton before, I'm sure there are plenty of others who haven't either. I walked out of "Soul Surfer", not inspired, but pleased. I was happy to see that this girl had fought against her demons and done so well with her passion of surfing with just one arm. It lets the audience know that anything is possible, and though we've seen this done in movies thousands of times, it is something done I could witness over and over in the movie business because these are the stories that create dreams.
Based on the book of the same title, by Bethany Hamilton herself, the film obviously focuses on the time period around her traumatic shark attack. I've never read the book but I've read plenty of positive reviews of it online. Since the publishing of her book, not only has Bethany become pro in surfing but has written over six other books as well. It seems that probably the worst day of her life started some of her best days because Bethany has certainly become the inspiration to many over the last few years.
In my own opinion, the movie started off a little too cliché. We are introduced to Bethany and her too-perfect family and everything in her life was perfection. It just felt a little odd, the way they presented the characters to us. Before the shark attack, which felt like it took a good hour after the movie started, we get a good feeling of who each character is in the movie and how they connect to Bethany's life. Starting off with a competition, in which her and her best friend both compete, Bethany doesn't even struggle to win first place. Well, the movie tries to make it unpredictable but we all know she's going to win because it shows a before and after piece. We see how easy it is for her with both arms, and then of course once she loses one, we see her incredible struggle to surf. Right before losing her arm, Bethany and her best friend were both sponsored. Bethany's dream had come true, and of course, all the perfection had to end somewhere. From the point in which she loses an arm, the movie does what it can to inspire us to do great things and while it doesn't succeed at every chance it tries to touch us, we get the point in the end and it still manages to do so.
What seemed a little odd is how Bethany didn't have much emotion after losing her arm. Without a scream during the attack it was understandable because she was in shock but waking up in the hospital and not showing anything at all felt off-key. Instead, when Bethany finally returns home, she isn't worried about the new lifestyle she'll have to get used to but she worries that she'll never be able to surf again. Although the movies does more to show her struggle to surf than it does to show her struggle with her new life, we do get one scene right after she returns home where Bethany finally realizes life will be harder for her now. Helping her mother and brothers make sandwiches might sound easy with just an arm, but she couldn't even open the bag of bread. That was the scene that shined on us. The scene that told us that this wasn't just going to be an uplifting tale from start to finish, but it'd be a depressing ride to get to that inspiration. At least that's the direction I'd thought the film was going to go in during that scene...
The performances in the movie are only decent. I can admit though that this would be the first time I really liked AnnaSophia Robb in a movie. The only problem, however, that I had with her being casted was that she didn't fit the role of Bethany Hamilton. Hamilton was only supposed to be thirteen at the time of the attack and Robb being seventeen, it didn't really seem to work out. Instead of getting the idea that Hamilton was only a young teen, I got the idea that she was a young adult instead. You can see the difference. I would have rather seen Abrigail Breslin in the role because not only does she fit the age a little more but she is a much better actress as well. Other performances by Dennis Quaid (Can anyone tell me what happened to this guy?) and Helen Hunt (Her too?) are decent, but with a messy script to mess with it can be hard to give great performances. The best performance in the film surprisingly goes to Carrie Underwood, however. Being a very big influence to Hamilton in the movie and to the audience as well, Underwood does a great job outshining in every scene she's in. I wish she was in more of this because I highly enjoyed all of her scenes.
Taking place in Kauai Hawaii, "Soul Surfer" is obviously a delight to look at. Sean McNamara presents us beautiful ocean shots and the cinematography on the film is wondrous. If it wasn't for the cartoon shark, I'd say that the look on the film was absolutely perfect and astounding! With this movie, though, once things get great something bounds to make it only decent.
Sometimes the movie goes a little overboard in trying to touch the audience. With cheesy, over-the-top lines that make you feel like you're watching a movie straight of the Disney Channel network, it can be hard to actually feel something for these characters. Also with a strong moral of God's faith, it could be hard for some to connect to it as well. As for me, I got past some of the script's messy partings and enjoyed everything else. The movie isn't perfect but that doesn't mean it still isn't decent. After a horrible bomb at the box-office, I feel sort of bad for this movie. Out of all the movies playing right now, I say that this should be one of your first choices, because it certainly has the best conclusion out of it. It has its bumps here and there, but it all thankfully works out in the end. See it.
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