Surfing, sharks and Jesus collide in Soul Surfer, the real-life drama coming soon to DVD and Blu-Ray. Starring AnnaSophia Robb as teenage surfer Bethany Hamilton, who was a rising star in Hawaii until a shark mistook her arm for dinner. Suddenly at an extreme disadvantage, Bethany vowed to return to surfing and continue to compete.
Soul Surfer, which also stars Dennis Quaid, Helen Hunt, Kevin Sorbo, Lorraine Nicholson and even Carrie Underwood, is a surprisingly effective drama that works despite its overt religious themes. As an atheist, I was a bit worried about this movie, but thankfully my concerns were unwarranted.
Soul Surfer is beautifully directed by Sean McNamara, though it's hard not to direct a "beautiful" surfing movie. It doesn't look as good as Blue Crush, but McNamara embraces the waves, his lead protagonist and her passion for the sport wholeheartedly. The movie flows well both in and out of the water.
McNamara's writing is less consistent. The first act has some shaky writing that the actors visibly struggle to overcome. The writing improves as the movie progresses, however.
The religious overtones are not very distracting, though a few of the more blatantly Christian scenes appear like they were tacked onto the script at the last minute. Thankfully, the scenes are few and do not significantly hinder the overall production.
The acting is decent. Robb, who I believe has potential to be a major star due to her looks and acting talent, holds her own and delivers a fine performance, despite the dialogue issues early on. Quaid brings some much needed energy to the film, while Nicholson does a good job as Bethany's best friend. Sorbo is also surprisingly good in a small role.
Carrie Underwood, as a youth group leader, should stick to her day job, however.
Ultimately, Soul Surfer is an entertaining and at times emotional sports drama. It's limited by its religious themes - its occasional tendency to preach distracts focus from just being a powerful, or fun, surfing movie - but is a worthwhile film even beyond the Christian market.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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