DIR: Sean McNamara • WRI: Sean McNamara, Deborah Schwartz, Douglas Schwartz, Michael Berk, Matt Allen, Caleb Wilson, Brad Gann, Bethany Hamilton, Sheryl Berk, Rick Bundschuh • PRO: Ronald Bass, David Brookwell, Rob Deege, Becky Hamilton, Noah Hamilton, Dutch Hofstetter, Tiffany Hofstetter, Joey Paul Jensen, Laurie Koris, Christina Lambert, Sean McNamara, Corey Schwartz, Douglas Schwartz, Susie Singer Carter, Jennifer Smolka, Shelley Trotter, David Zelon • DOP: John R. Leonetti • ED: Jeff Canavan • DES: Rusty Smith • CAST: AnnaSophia Robb, Dennis Quaid, Helen Hunt, Lorraine Nicholson, Kevin Sorbo
Soul Surfer is the dramatised true story of Bethany Hamilton, a promising Hawaiian teenage surfer who, at the age of 13, had her arm bitten off in a shark attack. Let me preface this review by stating how much personal admiration I have for the real Bethany; she really has such strength and courage.
Now the film however, is a much less inspiring affair. Soul Surfer has the sickly sweet pungent aroma of a made-for-TV movie, not to mention the slight waft of American Bible-belt propaganda.
The film begins with awkwardly-narrated surfing competition, in which Bethany and her B.F.F. Alana place first and third respectively, with the evil, bully brunette, Malina coming second. To their utmost joy, Bethany and Alana are both offered sponsorship by Rip Curl. This new responsibility means that Bethany is now unable to go with her religious, older lookalike, on a mission to help children in Mexico. Sick Children.
The two buddies stay in Hawaii and begin training with Alana’s father, Holt (who’s played by Hercules from popular nineties TV drama, Hercules.) On one such outing Bethany’s life is changed forever, as her arm is completely bitten off by a shark. So after a remarkably short recovery period, Bethany is forced to reevaluate her life choices, re-learn how to do everyday tasks and rediscover her love for surfing ¬– all with the support of her family.
As can be guessed from the title, this film deals in depth with the world of surfing; to the point where it can get quite difficult to identify with. The main choice of actors, I suspect, were cast for their board-yielding abilities rather than their acting talent, as this film sports some truly horrendous acting attempts. In fact close-ups of characters ‘crying’ but not yielding any actual tears is quite a common occurrence. Even talented veterans Helen Hunt and Dennis Quaid came in below par – making them the best of a very bad bunch.
For a film based on such a remarkable true story, there is little actual drama or conflict in the script. Bethany seems to just get on with it – thus being a very brave individual, but quite a boring protagonist. Also the people who devised the CG ‘Stump’ should be barred from the film industry forever; it was distracting and ridiculous. The only high point of the film was the final credit sequence because it showed clips of the real-life Bethany. Also because it meant the film was over.