Soul Surfer

By Matt Prigge
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 1 | Posted Apr. 6, 2011

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If the film based on her life is accurate, the family, friends and well-wishers surrounding teen surfer Bethany Hamilton (played by AnnaSophia Robb) never much needed to offer her inspirational advice after a shark absconded with her left arm. She was a living, breathing motivational slogan machine. “I don’t need easy, I just need possible,” she crows as she tries to overcome one significant hurdle. And is she afraid to get back into the water after her accident? Bah. “I’m more afraid of not surfing,” she boasts. True, Hamilton suffers a crisis of confidence exactly when the narrative depends upon it, but it’s only a pretext for her true comeback and Rocky-esque performance at the big competition climax.

Hamilton’s unwhiny resilience, bordering on inhuman, her ability to brave through the most intense of circumstances and her irritation at receiving even the slightest pity is a trait complemented by nearly every character with whom she comes in contact, from her homeschooling surfer parents (Helen Hunt and Dennis Quaid) to the family friend who’s never been nominated for even a Golden Globe (Kevin Sorbo). Iron will is not a trait shared by the makers of Soul Surfer, a thousand-hankie, inspirational weepie that proves the bizarre rule that any film about someone who bravely toughs it out will be as goopy as their subjects were tough-willed.

Director Sean McNamara, of Hilary Duff vehicles and Bratz: The Movie, lunges at heart strings like a murderer would a throat, which would be even more bothersome if he hadn’t lucked into a primary cast that knows to underplay. Hunt may aim for the Oscar nom, but Quaid sporadically falls back on his goofy, old-school charisma, re-whipping out one of the most infectious grins in cinema. Robb winningly embodies all that is admirable about Hamilton: She’s tough, pitiless and fragile enough not to seem like an alien species, qualities standing in stark contrast to the film around her. But perhaps not everyone would get that Hamilton is worthy of adulation without someone there insisting it every couple seconds.

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1. Gary Read said... on Apr 19, 2011 at 08:12PM

“My question: The actress AnnaSophia Robb who played Bethany on Soul Surfer, after she had her arm bitten off by a shark, she lost her left arm, in the movie. After the movie was over, when showing the credits, AnnaSophia had her left arm back on her. Question: How did the makers of the movie show her arm was bitten off in the movie, and to have a nub on her left arm? How did Hollywood have her left arm, look that certain way? I can't figure this out nor understand how this was done. The movie showed many types of emotions, throughout the movie. One word to express Bethany - Courageous. A calm courage, with lots of faith and endurance and determination to see her dream, become a reality, inspite of having a disability. I have Crohn's Disease and it takes daily faith to keep it daily watched and keep myself, cared for, in a positive way. Keep your eyes on Jesus, with a humble and thankful heart. He will keep you safe, as you trust in Him. Be at peace.”

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