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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Soul Surfer


"I don't need easy. I just need possible."


On October 31, 2003 thirteen year old surfer Bethany Hamilton went on a morning surf with friends of her family. While resting idly on her surfboard, a 15 foot tiger shark leaped out of the water and took her entire left arm. With the straightforwardness of a Hallmark card, Soul Surfer chronicles her amazing, inspirational true story; how Hamilton recovered from a crippling injury to regain her competitive stature and, more importantly, her faith and greater purpose in life. Ostensibly a cross between Blue Crush, 127 Hours and Jaws, Soul Surfer's soul is deeply and earnestly Christian, with themes of faith and family front and center. What Soul Surfer has going for it is breathtaking cinematography of Kauai, Hawaii surpassing even the lush, island eye candy Blue Crush presented a decade ago, appealing lead performances by AnnaSophia Robb as Bethany Hamilton and Dennis Quaid as her father Tom Hamilton, and tremendous CGI effects that seamlessly, convincingly remove Robb's arm for almost the entire movie. Seriously - you will believe AnnaSophia Robb only has one arm. Soul Surfer delves into the dilemma Hamilton faced of having to learn how to live life with just one arm, and then learning to surf competitively with one arm (the training montages of Hamilton and her family developing strategies for how she could overcome her handicap were brief but fascinating). Later, Hamilton travels to Thailand in the wake of the 2004 tsunami; a nice broadening of the scope of her story beyond the tragedy that befell her. I did really like some of the dialogue, like when Robb says, "I don't need easy, I just need possible" and later when she tells the press she's been able to embrace more people with one arm than she ever would have with two arms. But Soul Surfer has many moments where its nearly sunk by some truly banal TV movie of the week acting by virtually everyone in the cast (including Helen Hunt as Bethany's mother hen and American Idol Carrie Underwood, constantly distracting as a Christian missionary and mentor to Bethany). There's a hilarious night-time lynch scene complete with a crowd gathered carrying flaming torches where the shark that bit Hamilton is caught and brought before the vengeful Dennis Quaid. Though the entire Hamilton family may as well have had halos over their heads, besides Robb as Bethany, the most heroic person in Soul Surfer is Kevin Sorbo, whose quick thinking and action got Bethany to the hospital and saved her life. God bless that Hercules, friend to all soul surfers.

I would be happy to write and direct Soul Surfer 2, where the shark stalks Bethany Hamilton and her family during a vacation in the Bahamas. Have your sharks call my people.