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SOUL SURFER

SYNOPSIS:
Based on the true story of teenage surfer Bethany Hamilton (AnnaSophia Robb). Born and raised in Hawaii, Bethany lives to surf and is encouraged by her parents Tom (Dennis Quaid) and Cheri (Helen Hunt). One day when surfing in the ocean with a group of friends, she is attacked by a shark and tragically loses her arm. After her recovery she is keen to get back in the water but it is a soul-searching trip to Thailand after the 2004 tsunami with the local Christian youth group led by Sarah (Carrie Underwood) that allows her to find a new sense of purpose. She then resumes her competitive surfing and sets about to help others to face their own adversity.

Review by Louise Keller:
Beyond the Hollywood gloss and PG rating, there is no denying the power of this gritty true story about teenage champion surfer Bethany Hamilton (Robb) who defies the odds after losing her arm in a shark attack. It’s an uplifting and inspiring story showing that with faith, persistence and determination anything is possible, yet instead of gripping us as it should, the film plays too safe and ends up as a plastic-coated sports film with good intentions.

These reservations aside, Soul Surfer has appeal with an enigmatic central performance from Robb, some great Hawaiian surfing sequences and strong support from Quaid and Hunt as Bethany’s supportive parents.

The filmmakers have opted to concentrate on the story’s feel-good aspects. The scene in which the shark chomps off Bethany’s left arm is so underplayed it is almost inconceivable to imagine the horror of what has happened. (There is none of the drama and gore of 127 Hours when James Franco hacked into his own arm after a rock climbing accident.) Additionally, the emphasis on the family’s strong Christian values leaves a syrupy taste.

A soul-searching trip with the local Christian youth group to tsunami-ravaged Thailand gives Bethany new perspective; once inspired to help others face adversity, she resumes her efforts into competitive surfing.

The film’s best scenes are in the final reel when Bethany competes in the surf against her long-standing rival Malina (Balmores). Bethany may only have one arm, but using her sixth sense she snares the perfect wave and show the judges, the crowd and most importantly herself that she can compete with the best. Thrilling surfing sequences bring a swell of emotion and I had a lump in my throat during the end credits when the real Bethany Hamilton proficiently rides the gigantic waves - with her one arm.

First published in the Sun-Herald

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

SOUL SURFER (PG)
(US, 2011)

CAST: AnnaSophia Robb, Helen Hunt, Dennis Quaid, Carrie Underwood, Lorraine Nicholson, Ross Thomas, Kevin Sorbo, Cody Gomes, Sonya Balmores

PRODUCER: Sean McNamara, David Brookwell, Dutch Hoffstetter, Douglas Schwartz, David Zelon

DIRECTOR: Sean McNamara

SCRIPT: Sean McNamara, Deborah Schwartz, Douglas Schwartz, Michael Berk (book by Bethany Hamilton, Sheryl Berk, Rick Bundschuh)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: John R. Leonetti

EDITOR: Jeff Canavan

MUSIC: Marco Beltrami

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Rusty Smith

RUNNING TIME: 106 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 26, 2011







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