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Soul Surfer Is Satisfying
See more reviews by Angela Walker, Contributing Writer

Soul Surfer Poster4 starsSynopsis
Bethany (AnnaSophia Robb) was born to surf. A natural talent who took to the waves at a young age, she was leading an idyllic life on Kauai, participating in national surf competitions with her best friend Alana (Lorraine Nicholson), when everything changed. On Halloween morning, a 14-foot tiger shark came out of nowhere and seemed to shatter all her dreams.

SOUL SURFER reveals Bethany's fight to recover from her ordeal and how she grappled with the question of her future. Strengthened by the love of her parents, Tom (Dennis Quaid) and Cheri (Helen Hunt), and supported by her youth group leader Sara (Carrie Underwood), Bethany refuses to give in or give up, and begins a bold return to the water.

Made for the Box Office
It's a story made for the box office: up and coming surfer loses arm to vicious shark attack. Will she make her way back to championship level? Can she? There's enough drama inherent to the story that almost nothing needs to be added for it to make a winning, if predictable, film.

Since we already know the end of the story (the real-life Bethany is a world champion surfer), the movie has to contain enough conflict and dramatic tension to hold our interest for 106 minutes. And it does. Almost. There are a few moments when the momentum of the story sags. Sometimes it's due to the acting; at other times the script seems to lose its way.

High-Powered Cast
The cast contains some high-powered names: Dennis Quaid [THE ROOKIE] and Helen Hunt [AS GOOD AS IT GETS] as Bethany's parents are solid in their roles, even if they look a little uncomfortable singing praise songs at an open-air church service. AnnaSophia Robb is a standout as Bethany. Even when the lines she's given are a little wince-worthy, she delivers a strong performance as the determined and strong-willed surfer.

The one casting disappointment is country music singer and American Idol Carrie Underwood. As Bethany's youth pastor Sara, she has some key scenes that every person who deals with tragedy goes through: why did this happen? Does this change my perspective of God? Have I done something to deserve this, or do accidents just happen? Underwood comes off as flat and not very sympathetic, which keeps these moments from being as strong as they could.

Great Cinematography
You won't find any big surprises in this film, but you will find some wonderful camera work and visual effects in the surfing scenes. The surfing scenes are beautifully captured and makes me want to grab a board and learn how to surf. On the other hand, there's that vicious shark attack.

What the movie doesn't show in direct visuals of the shark or its attack, it does show in its horrific aftermath. You know it's coming, but when it actually hits, you're shocked. Kevin Sorbo [WHAT IF…] is terrific as Bethany's best friend's dad, who gets her to shore in time to save her life, and Craig T. Nelson [THE COMPANY MEN] is kind and sympathetic as the family doctor, offering one of the best lines of the movie.

Other standouts are Lorraine Nicholson [Jack's daughter] as Bethany's best friend, Chris Brochu and Ross Thomas as Bethany's brothers Timothy and Noah, and Sonya Balmores, as Bethany's main surfing rival.

See It, Enjoy It, Take a Friend
On the whole, SOUL SURFER is an enjoyable film. People of faith will resonate with the messages of the film, even if they are presented in a rather predictable way. The surfing scenes are great, with some beautiful special effects that make me want to grab a board and learn how to surf.

Rating
SOUL SURFER is rated PG for an intense accident sequence and some thematic material. The intense accident sequence lasted longer than I expected and was very bloody. If you have sensitive children, don't take them because they'll be scared. We all know the "thematic material" is because it has Christian themes.

Courtesy of a national publicist, Angela attended a preview screening of SOUL SURFER.

Opening Weekend
SOUL SURFER opens nationwide on Friday, April 8, 2011.


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