Soul Surfer is the story of Bethany Hamilton, a young surfer who comes from an awesome family of surfers, who are all awesome surfers and find surfing completely awesome. Dude.
Bethany falls victim of a shark attack, loosing her left arm but despite this hardship, decides God wants her to carry on surfing and that surfing is just really, really awesome.
The acting is absolutely appalling, it’s staggering all of the cast are indeed fully trained actors. I thought maybe they were employed because they were surfers and because the surfing is so much the focal point of the film then at least they could do the stunts, but unbelievably, they’re all actors, even the quasi-love interest who was probably intended to be the full love interest until they realized, “Yeah, this dude’s maybe not so great”. How he got through casting, I’ll never know.
The writing is cringeworthy, vomit inducing, rubbish. Every line is delivered like a parody of the perfect American, God loving, family (“Love is bigger than any tidal wave or fear”). It’s all utter cheese and contrived sentimentality. A particularly awful moment occurs when post-accident, Bethany goes on a trip to tsunami hit Thailand to ‘find herself’ (no cliché there). She so righteously helps the needy foreigners by teaching an orphan boy how to surf. I’m sure the kid can’t wait to embrace those waves that just killed his parents leaving him all alone with nothing. Don’t worry, the pretty white American girl will teach you to surf and she’ll be able to find her purpose and you’ll smile and then everything will be just fine. Absolutely no effort to empathize with the hardships of the Thai people. God bless America. Condescending and insulting.
The directing is pathetic. Loads of shots of surfing competition montages with a cheesy pop music soundtrack is not a good way to build up tension. Judging by the way it’s shot here, surfing is not a spectator sport and the director fails to give it any sense of drama or suspense. It’s incredibly shoddily filmed with big wide shots rather than feeling close to our character. You do get the sense Sunday evenings on the Disney Channel would have been more apt.
It’s the most sugary shark attack movie you’re ever going to see. Everything’s just awesome. The best thing I can say about this is that it’s perfectly harmless for kids. Unless you were in my screening at the Odeon which decided to play 5 adverts for alcohol and condoms beforehand – for a PG!
Soul Surfer is out now in the UK. Running time: 106 mins. Certificate PG (UK).
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Review by David Rank