Saturday 20 April 2024

Movie Review: Soul Surfer (2011)

Genre: Biographical Drama  
Director: Sean McNamara  
Starring: AnnaSophia Robb, Dennis Quaid, Helen Hunt, Carrie Underwood  
Running Time: 106 minutes  

Synopsis: In Hawaii, Bethany Hamilton (AnnaSophia Robb) was born with a love for competitive surfing. She is home educated by her loving parents Cheri and Thomas (Helen Hunt and Dennis Quaid), and enjoys a life-long friendship with fellow-surfer Alana (Lorraine Nicholson). In 2003, 13 year-old Bethany is winning amateur competitions and about to turn pro when she loses an arm in a shark attack. Despite the setback, she is determined to resume competitive surfing.

What Works Well: Based on actual events, Bethany Hamilton's story is wholesome, inspirational, and capable of scaling emotional peaks. Director Sean McNamara gives the faith-based elements due prominence, with Carrie Underwood appearing as a church youth leader, but most of the focus in on a young woman dealing with a most unexpected personal trauma. The harrowing shark attack and its immediate aftermath are handled with shocking elegance, before the drama shifts towards emotional recovery and reset. Passable special effects are used to obscure AnnaSophia Robb's post-attack arm, while gorgeous cinematography enlivens the frequent surfing scenes.

What Does Not Work As Well: An army of writers contributed to the script, resulting in predictably cringey tonal choppiness. While AnnaSophia Robb grows into the role, the adult acting oscillates between competent and one-take expediency.

Conclusion: Rides the waves with humble swagger.

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