Christian Living


Soul Surfer: Movie Review

Star Rating

Movie Info


PG for an intense accident sequence and some thematic material.


Drama, Kids/Family, Adaptation, Biopic and Sports


April 8, 2011


AnnaSophia Robb, Helen Hunt, Dennis Quaid, Kevin Sorbo, Lorraine Nicholson


Sean McNamara


TriStar Pictures, FilmDistrict, Enticing Entertainment

CBN is not endorsing the films or TV shows CBN.com reviews. Our goal is to provide information about the latest in entertainment, both the good and the bad, so you may make an informed decision as to what is appropriate for you and your families.

If Bethany Hamilton’s story weren’t true, you’d never buy the new movie based on her life. But her hard-to-believe story is true; and that's what makes Soul Surfer one of the year’s most inspirational films. It releases on DVD today.

A strong, faith-filled movie, Soul Surfer is supported by Hollywood names Dennis Quaid (The Day After Tomorrow, Frequency) and Helen Hunt (As Good As It Gets) as Tom and Cheri Hamilton. Playing their on-screen daughter, young actress AnnaSophia Robb is inspiring as Bethany.


Thirteen-year-old Bethany Hamilton lived and loved the water, and her talent had her anticipating a promising career in surfing. But life almost ended for her when a 14-foot Tiger shark attacked her off the coast of Kauai. Bethany's condition looked grim as she lost approximately 60 percent of her blood. Waking up after life-saving surgery, Bethany soon realizes her left arm is gone. But, her strength and courage don’t diminish. With the prayer and support of her family and church, Bethany gets back in the water and on top of her board. Dead set on surfing her Hawaii waves again, she focuses on steadying her ride while leaning on her faith.


Soul Surfer gets a high rating for several reasons. Rising star AnnaSophia Robb is – as the Hamiltons thought she would be – perfect as Bethany. The Denver-native garnered Cheri Hamilton’s attention with her performance in Bridge to Terabithia. And she let no one down, giving a good portrayal of Bethany’s spunk and courage. Actor Dennis Quaid lends his years of experience to Soul Surfer, and the movie is the better for it.

Director Sean McNamara and crew created some special effects magic worth noting. To capture Bethany's story the way he and his director of photography wanted, the team shot hundreds of scenes multiple times, sometimes with Robb wearing a green sock on her arm, others with her doing the scenes holding her arm over her head (so they could paint away her arm and paint in her torso). It’s all so technical, but goes a long way to making a believable adaption of Bethany's life. The two also packaged some great cinematography. It’s absolutely gorgeous and will have some wanting to jump on planes bound for the sandy beaches and clear, blue surf of Hawaii.

Soul Surfer’s problem areas are – when separately examined – significant, yet are not entirely distracting from the its touching message. Helen Hunt performs the part of Cheri Hamilton, Bethany’s mother, but that’s it. She plays the role, creates the emotion needed, but doesn’t seem to connect with what’s going on. In her film debut, Country artist Carrie Underwood also flounders a bit as Sarah Hill, Bethany’s church youth leader. Emotional scenes with AnnaSophia Robb expose the Grammy winner’s lack of acting experience. Basing the film on Bethany Hamilton’s book, Sean McNamara and his co-writers piece together a congruent storyline filled with Christian scripture (specific emphasis on Jeremiah 29:11), prayer, and worship at a beachside church service. Unfortunately, the dialogue is lacking in a couple of key scenes.

Rated PG, Soul Surfer is suitable for most young children and older. Parents should know that the attack scene shows the nose of the shark grabbing onto Bethany's arm and then it disappears. A trail of blood fills the water as she's rushed to the shore. McNamara did a fine job of covering the intense scene in an age-appropriate way.


The Soul Surfer DVD contains a wealth of special features including deleted scenes, three behind the scenes features, and a featurette on Bethany today as a professional surfer. While the aforementioned features are well done, it is the "Heart of Soul Surfer" documentary that stands apart from the others. A must see for high school youth groups far and wide, the documentary delves heavily into Bethany's walk of faith and dealing with the obvious question -- why does God allow bad things to happen to good people? Christian movie viewers will be delighted with her answer.


Grading its overall appeal, Soul Surfer comes out strong, offering us one of the best faith-friendly movies since The Blind Side. It's quality entertainment that will have a soul-searching effect on movie lovers.

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