Best Movies of All Time + Soul Surfer

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©There are few people who haven't heard of Bethany Hamilton. She was the 13-year-old amateur professional surfer who had her arm bitten off by 4.3 m tiger shark while surfing off the coast of Hawaii. She lost 60 per cent of her blood, but miraculously survived and returned to the world of professional surfing a champion. Her inspirational tale is the subject ofSoul Surfer; a film that follows her personal struggle to overcome her debilitating injury.
Directed by Sean McNamara (Raise Your Voice, Bratz), this is notJawsmeetsBlue Crush, but rather a Disney-esque version of events. Sure, this is a fairytale, so heart warming sentiments and inspirational monologues are to be expected. But somewhere between lines like “love is bigger than any tidal wave or fear” the film succumbs to family movie cheesiness. Written, produced and directed by McNamara,Soul Surferis elevated by a trio of strong performances from AnnaSophia Robb as Bethany and Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt as her parents. Robb is beyond convincing and beautifully balances Bethany's vulnerability and inner-strength. Quaid and Hunt are fantastic as the supportive and highly likable parents. Their love for each other and their family has a tangible presence and one of the best scenes is when the Hollywood veterans take to the waves for a surfing/bonding session. Plus, Hunt is undoubtedly one of the most naturally beautiful women in the bizz. At 47 she rocks a bikini and in close-ups it’s clear to see she hasn’t had a spot of work done; she’s aging gracefully and looking all the better for it.
Also good is Jack Nicholson's daughter Lorraine Nicholson as Bethany's best friend Alana Blanchard and formerHerculesstar Kevin Sorbo in a meaty role as her dad Holt Blanchard. The Blanchard’s were close friends of the Hamilton family and responsible for saving Bethany's life that day when they dragged her to shore and used a leg rope as a tourniquet. These days Alana is better known for having thebest assin international surfing.©Based on Bethany's autobiography of the same name, the surfer has always attributed God and her faith for getting her through the traumatic ideal and back on the board. The Christian elements of Bethany's life are certainly not skipped over. In fact, they're perhaps covered too extensively and the powerful Christian themes are likely to ostracise some viewers. American Idol winner Carrie Underwood's performance as a Christian councillor doesn't help. Her big screen debut is so terrible, you would be happy to throw yourself into the mouth of a tiger shark to escape her wooden and preachy portrayal. Her sense of superiority and righteousness would be excruciating enough, but Underwood sports heavy makeup throughout the film which seems especially ridiculous when she's working in the slums of Indonesian in the aftermath of the Boxing Day tsunami. A Christian missionary with more eye shadow than Hedwig from the Angry Inch strips any sort of believability from the situation.
Despite its shortcomings,Soul Surferisn't a wipe out. It's an inspirational, family-friendly film that might over-do the cheese, but that doesn't mean it can't please.
Soul Surferis out Thursday, May 26.

Alana Blanchard, AnnaSophia Robb, Dennis Quaid, Helen Hunt, Kevin Sorbo, Sean McNamara, and more:

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