Now, anyone even slightly familiar with Bethany Hamilton will know that this girl was a 13-year up and coming surfing star when she was out practicing and had her arm bitten off by a tiger shark. Hamilton kept her shit together and had the shark bitten off just two more inches, she would’ve lost her life instead of just her arm. Needless to say, the story is a pretty bleak one around this point in her life and I spent the first twenty minutes or so of the movie wondering when the shark was going to get her while the theme music from Jaws kept running through my head.
After the deed is done, we see a lot of the Hamilton family trying to keep it together and support their daughter. This is where the film gets sort of heavy on the religious (although the presence of religion is heavily implied before this and after this) theme. Carrie Underwood plays Bethany’s youth leader and sort of Bible school teacher and she plays a minor part in helping to support the family and Bethany as she copes with her loss.
The film from here takes on this whole “rah-rah-rah” we can conquer anything together tone as Bethany, less than a month after her “accident”, gets back on her surfboard to begin training for surfing regionals and nationals. She struggles with having to adjust how she does things and we see her learn how to live a normal life. Then the tsunami hits in Thailand and we see more of Bethany’s goodwill when she travels overseas to help the people there.
I can really see the appeal of this movie for people who enjoy a good inspirational story. I mean, seriously, Bethany Hamilton is kind of incredible, but as someone who had religion shoved down my throat from years of Catholic school, I had a lot of trouble hearing all about how the shark biting off Bethany’s arm was a sign from God that she needed to spread the Lord’s good word. The surfing in the movie was well done; I’ll definitely give them that – especially since AnnaSophia Robb’s stunt-double was almost always the real Bethany Hamilton. The acting from the rest of the cast was sub-par at best. If you do pick up this film for yourself or a younger member of your family, another thing I can say for the film is that the setting is stunningly beautiful, as it’s all filmed right on set in Kauai, Hawaii.
The Making Of Soul Surfer: Basically, this was just going through the special effects behind AnnaSophia Robb’s missing arm, the shark that attacked her and we meet the actual Hamilton family and hear everyone talk a little bit about the casting process for the film. The real Bethany also takes a moment to talk about how she actually believes that sharks are beautiful and how she knew that the shark that bit her was not something that ordinarily happens.
Surfing for the Screen: Inside the Action: Apparently the Hamilton family was adamant about the way surfing was portrayed in the film. They had said that it had never been filmed quite right, so all of the cast went through surfing lessons and worked really hard to get it all right.
Becoming Bethany: This feature is more or less pretty straightforward. Basically it just goes through how AnnaSophia Robb prepared for her role as Bethany. Kind of interesting little feature on what the young actress did to prepare her better and to help improve the role.
Heart of a Soul Surfer Documentary: This is the story of the Hamilton family and their lives surfing. Honestly, this little documentary was pretty preachy to start with and the Hamilton family lays it on pretty thick about religion and God. For someone who isn’t heavily religious, this was a bit much. “Maybe it happened [being bitten by a shark] so I could tell others about God”. Seriously, a ton of the footage is actually provided by the Christian Broadcasting Network.
Bethany Hamilton on Professional Surfing: Basically this is all about the real Bethany Hamilton and there’s just a lot of footage of her doing her thing, surfing.
There are many worse role models for kids these days than the then 13-year old girl who had her arm bitten off and got back on her surfboard less than a month later.