Movie review: Soul Surfer

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The true story of 13-year-old Bethany Hamilton's shark attack and her subsequent surfing career is the stuff of inspiring sports movies.

But director Sean McNamara and a plethora of screenwriters have instead crafted "Soul Surfer," a gutless, totally average flick that trades in every cliche in the sports and Christian movie playbook.

The daughter of two hardcore surfers (played in the film by Helen Hunt and Dennis Quaid), Bethany (AnnaSophia Robb) is a teenage surfer destined to join the professional circuit, but she's forced to start over again when a shark attack takes her left arm.

There's quite a bit of potential in those aspects of the story, especially when the cast is in the water. Surfing is an exceptionally cinematic sport.

From an artistic standpoint, however, the film is hurt by two major elements - the real Bethany and her outspoken faith.

Because the film is based on Bethany's own account of her life, there's a tendency to showcase an idealized reality. She has a perfect relationship with her parents and brothers, so there's plenty of wholesome beach horseplay and family sandwich making.

The film is also hindered by Bethany's youth minister Sarah (Carrie Underwood, making her film debut), a one-dimensional character whose inclusion is likely an attempt to appeal to a faith-based crowd.

Soul Surfer

Opens Friday

2 stars out of 4