Surfer Bethany Hamilton became a media sensation at the age of 13 for the shark attack that took her entire left arm in 2003, her talent on the water and her strong faith in God.
The film “Soul Surfer” is based on Hamilton’s autobiography. But while it has some breathtaking shots of Hawaii, it failed to do justice to Hamilton’s inspiring story.
It assumes that, since Bethany’s story is so famous, the movie didn’t need to be written well. Aside from the performances by seasoned veterans Helen Hunt and Dennis Quaid, the best parts of the movie were when nobody was talking.
The dialogue was incredibly awkward and extremely heavy-handed in the religion department. Hamilton says that her faith is what helped her keep her head above water, but the film tended to force the audience into it. For example, the producers attempted to air brush the words “Holy Bible” off of a book Bethany’s father holds in the movie in order to open up to non-Christian audiences. But at the Hamilton family’s insistence, the Bible remained in the final cut.
There’s no denying that then-13-year-old Bethany’s story is remarkable. She was back on her surfboard a month after the tiger shark attack that should have killed her and was awarded the Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly Award for “Best Comeback Athlete” in 2004.
But “Soul Surfer” is a movie targeted at girls who are too young to be able to recognize a well-made movie. Unfortunately, adults will have to take them to this movie and suffer through it for their daughters.
From a sports movie standpoint, there was no shortage of fantastic shots from above and beneath the water as the stunt doubles ripped along the waves. There was also no shortage of good cinematography in the film — otherwise it would have simply been a waste of two hours that no one could ever get back.
The film also doesn’t do anything to help Hollywood’s misrepresentation of sharks. One scene shows a dead shark hanging in the Hamilton’s front yard surrounded by an angry mob. Dennis Quaid shakes his head at the shark as if it’s not in its nature and it purposely sought out his daughter to destroy her life.
Hamilton is indeed as remarkable as all the countless stories and news specials say, but “Soul Surfer” does not live up to the legend. The film may inspire young girls with a story of faith and perseverance — but so could any movie on the Disney Channel.