Inspiring true story hits choppy waves of Hollywood cheese
Starring Anna Sophia Robb, Dennis Quaid & Helen Hunt
Directed by Sean McNamara
Rated PG, 106 minutes
Release date April 8, 2011
In 2003, young surfing phenom Bethany Hamilton lost nearly her entire left arm in a shark attack. Doctors said it was a miracle she didn't die from shock and blood loss. The surfing world wondered if Bethany would ever be able to return to the water.
In Soul Surfer, Anna Sophia Robb, who charmed audiences as a child in Because Of Winn Dixie and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, plays Bethany as a happy, home-schooled Hawaiian teen who eats, sleeps and breathes surfing.
The opening scenes introduce us to Bethany, her friends and her family, and everyone seems to agree: This girl is going places on a surfboard, possibly even to a world championship.
Then, one otherwise tranquil morning, off the coast of a secluded Hawaiian beach, it happens: A tiger shark breaks the surface of the water and then disappears—and so does Bethany's arm, from the shoulder down.
Bethany's parents are portrayed by Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt, two veteran actors who, it should be noted, hold their own in body-revealing beach wear surrounded by a cast of much younger forms in bikinis and swim trunks.
Country superstar Carrie Underwood makes a promising movie-acting debut as Bethany's church youth director. Kevin Sorbo, TV's Hercules, is the Hamiltons' close friend and fellow surf junkie, whose quick thinking the day of the attack plays a key role in the outcome of the situation.
Craig T. Nelson plays the surgeon who pronounces Bethany a “living miracle” after surviving an encounter that came just a couple of critical inches away from ending her life.
The movie uses digital special effects to convincingly “remove” Anna Sophia Robb's arm. It's the same technique that made it look like Gary Sinise, as Lt. Dan in Forrest Gump, had no legs.
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