I recently discovered via my pastor and Wikipedia, that when Soul Surfer was
screened for religious leaders, the word “Holy Bible” had been digitally removed from the
book’s cover in one of the scenes. Plus, Carrie Underwood’s characters’ use of scripture
from the Bible was a “problem.” Seems one executive from production company Manda-
lay Visions wanted to make the film appealing to non-christian audiences by removing a-
ny references to God’s word. Thankfully, the Hamilton family portrayed in the film ob-
jected and both “problems” were restored in a folow-up screening.
Being a born again Christian, I was naturally offended by this too. Just like
Catholics were outraged by many of the so called “facts” in Dan Brown’s “Angels and
Demons.” However, I certainly don’t want to start preaching a sermon here. So let’s get
to the review.
Bethany Hamilton is the main focus of Soul Surfer, a young woman armed with
such solid faith based resilience, she inspired the entire world. As the film opens we see
flashbacks of her and her parents (also avid surfers) in Hawaii laying their little girl on a
big surfboard in offshore waters before she can even walk. It’s the cutest thing you’ll see
in the movie.
As time passes Bethany has won her first championship at the tender age of
eight, well on her way to a good future as touted by family friend, Ben during the Rip-
curl competition where she takes 2nd place behind her best friend Alana at just thirteen.
Bethany is still all smiles. Especially when she and Alana are offered an opportunity they
can’t refuse. And despite the apparent jealousy of rival surf competitor Melina. Being a
Christian, Bethnay even finds the good will to be nice to Melina although the feeling is
certainly not mutual.
It’s not long before director Sean McNamara unveils the life changing event
to befall Bethany. In early October, she, her brother Byron, Alana and her father Holt
(played by a still Herculean looking Kevin Sorbo) decide to go surfing together. While
dangling her left arm leisurely in the water laying on her board during a dormant wave
period, a tiger shark suddenly attacks, ripping it off just below the shoulder. They all
scramble to get Behtany to the hospital before she loses too much blood. However,
everyone knows Bethany’s life has taken a serious new arc now.
AnnaSophia Robb who was absolutely adorable in “Because of Winn-Dixie”
(remember that?), brings Bethany’s story to inspirational life as she tries so hard to adapt
to her disability. You may even grab your left arm periodically to try and feel what she’s
going through. Lke Bethany, she has a great future in her field and I would love to see her
in more dramatic roles.
She’s fully supported by her parents played by Hollywood stalwart veterans
Helen Hunt and Dennis Quaid. As Tom and Cheri Hamilton, they actually become po-
lar opposites at one point. Cheri sadly admits that maybe the surfing thing for Bethany is
over, while Tom insists she doesn’t give up. They do come together of course when lit-
erally sneaking Bethany into the back door of their home when the press rushes in for a
full story. “We’ll take it one day at a time”, Cherie reassures her husband, who is the most
upset about the calamity.
Thankfully, Carrie Underwood, making a fine movie debut as youth director Sa-
rah Hill, serves as the real motivation that gets Bethany back on her board. She uses
scripture from the book of Jeremiah plus a mission trip to Thailand, getting the
downtrodden Bethany to see other folks who are in bad, if not worse condition than her.
Bethany’s desire to surf is spiritually as well as physically reignited.
I’m sure Soul Surfer will not win any Oscars or other prestigious awards. But
the message is clear. It is a film that will encourage all those suffering from tragedy and
help them to know God’s will for their lives. Even when bad things happen to them.