Rated PG for an intense accident sequence and some thematic material, 110 minutes
Inspiring, well-acted true story "Soul Surfer"
"Soul Surfer" tells the true story of Hawaiian teen surfer Bethany Hamilton, who in 2003 lost an arm to a tiger shark while surfing but who continued to make waves by becoming a one-armed championship surfer. Inspiring and well-acted, "Soul Surfer" is a bit too earnest and a tad too long for what it is, but it still manages to tug the heart-strings at the right moments and is a refreshing, suitable family film.
Hamilton (played by Anna Sophia-Robb) is a talented teen surfer in Hawaii born into a surfing family led by Tom and Cheri Hamilton (Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt). With the talent to be a professional surfer, Hamilton is out practicing with her best friend Alanna Blanchard (Lorraine Nicholson) and her father Holt (Kevin Sorbo) when she is attacked by a shark and her arm is bitten off. With her story gaining notoriety, Bethany is now faced with living life with one arm and must decide if she'll ever get in the water again to surf.
"Soul Surfer" is a touching family film that's a fresh change of pace for those looking for an uplifting family film. Some may not enjoy the faith-filled film, but even with that it should still have wide appeal, particularly with Quaid and Hunt in the cast. Sean McNamara, primarily a TV director of Disney shows, points the film in the right direction, even if the film often has a TV-movie feel to it, particularly with the casting of country singer Carrie Underwood as Bethany's church friend, in her feature film debut. Underwood, a lovely singer but whose acting skills are limited, performs serviceable in a small part.
Sophia-Robb, whose performed in other family films "Bridge to Terabithia" and "Because of Winn-Dixie," is a touching Bethany, and the film pulls the right amount of heart strings, if it does feel a smidgen manipulative. Earnest and suitable, this is one the whole family can enjoy, though this story fits the small screen a little better. Stay over through the credits to see Bethany, along with her family and friends portrayed in the film.
Wes's Grade: B-