Soul Surfer(56747)Credit: TriStar Pictures

Soul Surfer on Blu-ray and DVD

The first time I caught a glimpse of the theatrical trailers for Soul Surfer I wasn’t interested. I’d remembered the news reports about the tragic accident of Bethany Hamilton and I didn’t think a movie about a shark biting the arm off a young girl would be something of any value, let alone entertaining – yuck! When it was released on DVD I felt pretty much the same way, and then my teenage daughter asked if we could rent it. I was still disinterested, however, I couldn’t think of a reason not to rent it; compared to most of the movies being marketed to teens this seemed harmless, plus the video store clerk said it was “awesome.”  How could I decline?

When my family sat down to watch Soul Surfer, I decided I would sit and watch with them but I would also get some work done. I plopped my laptop on my lap and began clicking away on the keyboard, listening to the movie and looking up every so often just long enough to catch a tiny bit of a scene. As Soul Surfer continued, I found myself typing less and watching more. When it was over I told my husband to keep it for one more day because I wanted to watch it again and this time give it my full attention. The next day I did just that and I discovered that what appeared to be a tragic story from the outside was really a story of perseverance under extraordinary circumstances, sheer determination to do what seems like the impossible, and most importantly, love.  To say that I regret not going to the movie theater to see Soul Surfer is an understatement, this movie was refreshing and it told a poignant story with an uplifting message.

Director Sean McNamara was able to capture the awe-inspiring beauty of the ocean with breathtakingly striking scenes, especially during the surf competitions. These scenes are some of the most stunningly beautiful and eye pleasing movie images that I’ve seen; so magnificent that I wanted to watch them over and over.  There is also a brief night surfing scene that was a wonderful contrast to the others; the surfboards were bordered with glow sticks and the surfers wore glowing necklaces and bracelets. A glowing treat for the eyes and at the same time you’re on the edge of your seat anxiously wondering what will happen. In addition to the beauty, however, more importantly McNamara captured the spirit of the story and told it with clarity, reality and artistry. 

The cast includes Dennis Quaid, Helen Hunt, Kevin Sorbo, Carrie Underwood (in her movie debut), Craig T. Nelson, and AnnaSophia Robb as Bethany Hamilton.  Miss Robb’s performance is beyond believable, she gives a moving portrayal of a young girl with amazing character, solid conviction and a passion for surfing that develops into more.

Movie reviews were mixed with left-leaning critics slamming the film and criticizing it, mostly for the underlying Christian message. They opined that the movie would have been better had it just portrayed the two-dimensional story of this young girl’s tragic accident. It didn’t matter that the movie represented a true story which happens to include this young girl’s faith. No, it seems as though these “critics” went into the movie screening with a particular mind set, imposing an unspoken rule of separation of church and movies. Other mainstream critics actually liked the movie and gave it positive reviews. On the flip side of the movie review spectrum are the overwhelmingly positive reviews, not only from the Christian community, but from most of the public who have seen Soul Surfer.  

If you haven’t seen this move, check it out and decide for yourself. If you’re turned-off by hearing that there might be a Christian message, I must tell you that Soul Surfer is not a blatant attempt to proselytize or preach to anyone. Bethany Hamilton relied on her faith when she found herself in an incomprehensible situation and it was the foundation that helped her not only get through the situation but to triumph over it. Also, consider the story: on Halloween day a 13 year old girl loses her left arm and 60% of her blood after a shark attack, it is amazing she even survived! “When can I surf again?” was the first question this teen asked after the emergency surgery, and thus by Thanksgiving Day she was on a surfboard and back in the ocean, determined to train for the upcoming Hawaiian Island regional’s surfing competition. Realizing just how difficult her dream is, she struggles to find answers in the midst of great adversity. After questioning why this happened to her, she learns what it means to lose everything and in that situation she finds clarification in her situation. With great character and self-determination she discovers the resolve to continue her passion and amazingly makes it into the surfing finals.  However, just when you think you know how this story is going to end, you are surprised. Remember, this is a true story, this is Soul Surfer:  The True Story of Bethany Hamilton.

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