Movie Review by Andre Viljoen
Soul Surfer, which launches in South Africa on Friday (August 5), is an inspiring, true-story-of-faith-and-courage that will appeal to a broad range of viewers of all ages. Christian viewers will particularly enjoy the all-too-rare opportunity to watch a quality Hollywood feature film, with a strong star cast, that presents Christianity in a positive light.
Starring AnnaSophia Robb, Helen Hunt and Dennis Quaid, Soul Surfer is the true story of teenage surfer Bethany Hamilton losing an arm in a shark attack and making it back to champion-level surfing through her faith in Jesus Christ, the support of a loving Christian family, and lots of guts and determination.
I was fortunate to attend a private viewing in PE recently hosted by local publicists Humble Pie Entertainment, at which most of the viewers were Christian surfers who were in the area to attend the Billabong Pro surf competition. I was wondering what these guys who are used to watching the world’s top surfers in action would think about this movie that includes lots of surfing action. They applauded spontaneously at the end of the film.
Don’t miss this movie. It is enjoyable on many levels. Great glimpses of Hawaiian scenery and lifestyle (like a regular Sunday morning family church service on the beach with worshipers arriving with wet hair fresh from a surf), adrenalin-pumping competitive surfing, and many touching and inspiring moments as Bethany and her family face seemingly insurmountable obstacles and learn some big life lessons.
To the film-makers credit they did not over-dramatise the horror aspect of the shark attack, and nor did they resort to cheesiness or “preachiness” to convey a message of faith and courage. Rather the family’s Christian life comes through as an authentic backdrop to a really moving story. The realness of the story is reinforced during the closing shots of the movie which included home video footage of the real Bethany doing some of the exact stuff that was portrayed in the film.
There is no doubt that Soul Surfer provides some unique outreach opportunities. Bethany’s story has already touched millions of lives and reportedly hundreds have received Jesus through her personal testimony. You can confidently watch Soul Surfer with your unsaved friends and be open to whatever discussion opportunities may arise. If you are a youth group leader this is a great opportunity to take your group members on an outing and all the better if they invite friends. Discussion topics that may be stimulated include: perspectives on suffering, the place of prayer and God’s plan for our lives.
Soul Surfer is the first film to be released under a deal between FilmDistrict and Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions. Rich Peluso, vice president of AFFIRM Films, a division of Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions, who worked with the writers, producers, and the Hamilton family to integrate the family’s real story and faith into the film, reportedly says: “We know our audience today wants quality films with high production values, well-known talent, and a biblical worldview.” Let’s hope that Soul Surfer is the first of a steady flow of such new movies to come out of Hollywood. Let’s vote with our feet.