Movie: Soul Surfer.

9 Aug

I recently saw the inspirational movie Soul Surfer, which is based on the real-life story of Bethany Hamilton, a Christian teenage surfer who lost her arm in a shark attack several years ago.  Unlike Fireproof, Soul Surfer had a multi-million dollar budget and major studio backing, and as a result offers viewers Hollywood production values and “name” actors who were able to bring the script to life.  The movie was shot in Hawaii and makes the island look gorgeous.  The surfing is also authentic – the real Bethany Hamilton did the surfing for her movie self – and is well-filmed.

Oftentimes when Christian stories go through the Hollywood machine, the Christian content gets watered down so as to draw a wider audience (i.e., not “offend” anyone).  That didn’t really happen in Soul Surfer.  We see the characters attending church and singing worship songs, Carrie Underwood shows up as the youth group leader to read scripture and go on missions trips, and Bethany’s dad is reading the Bible as he watches over her in the hospital.  I was surprised to see this degree of realism of a contemporary evangelical lifestyle in a major theatrical feature, but the movie manages the minor miracle of not being preachy or self-conscious about it.  The Hamilton family’s faith is presented as a normal part of their lives, not a Special Teachable Moment or Time Out For An Altar Call To The Heathens Unsaved We Tricked Into Seeing This Movie That’s Supposed To Be About Surfing  But Not Really HaHa.

Notable for readers of this blog is the portrayal of Bethany’s parents by Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt.  It’s not just that they were believable as parents and a married couple (they were), but they were believable as a married couple who loved each other and LIKED each other and still had a sexual spark between them.  It was a pleasure to see.  Too often in movies and TV, longtime married couples who get along are portrayed as kindly roommate-partners whose pinnacle of passion is a peck when the husband or wife comes home from work, or maybe an affectionate side hug.

Funnily enough, although Soul Surfer is primo youth group entertainment, I can see it being controversial in some circles because the girls wear string bikinis throughout much of the movie (although during the surf competitions, they wear colored surf shirts).  To someone familiar with beach/surf culture, this is ordinary and unremarkable, but I can already imagine the handwringing over whether to let hormonal teenage boys view the movie for fear of inciting lust.

(For parents – there is zero bad language, and even the shark attack is pretty benign.)

10 Responses to “Movie: Soul Surfer.”

  1. Will S. August 9, 2011 at 12:16 pm #

    No swearing, even during the shark attack? “Oh my word; I’ve been bit! My goodness!”

  2. Aunt Haley August 9, 2011 at 1:31 pm #

    Are you psychic? That’s exactly what she said!

  3. Will S. August 9, 2011 at 1:40 pm #

    LOL! Just a good guess.

  4. Badger August 9, 2011 at 1:49 pm #

    “Carrie Underwood shows up as the youth group leader to read scripture and go on missions trips”

    Yeah, real Christian values – this is the woman whose songs involve destroying a guy’s truck, getting picked up at bars and having a one-night stand with a guy whose name she doesn’t recall.

  5. Will S. August 9, 2011 at 7:19 pm #

    But Badger, that makes her just like every other red-state evangelical female.

    Just kidding, sorta; evangelical females of course have just as much rationalization hamsters as their secular sisters, just as much capacity for self-delusion.

  6. Jennifer August 10, 2011 at 1:53 pm #

    LOL You guys are funny :)

    Seriously, there were other deep flaws. Like Bethany sneaking out for night surfing at a party and being unapologetic? Or that little sultry bikini dance her friend did? Ugh.

  7. Badger August 10, 2011 at 9:23 pm #


    Is there any fun in your world, or just arrogant moralizing?

  8. Jennifer August 10, 2011 at 10:04 pm #

    There’s a lot of fun in my world, Badger; that doesn’t mean I encourage porn or barely teen girls acting like sluts or playing dangerous games. I didn’t know grown adults would consider speaking against such things as a sign of not having “fun”; if anything, I get tired of the arrogant defense I see of sexual immorality and Hollywood cheapness. I prefer a better road, thanks.

  9. Jennifer August 10, 2011 at 10:29 pm #

    It was not my inention to sound arrogant anywhere, but this does happen when I start to lose patience (as I did at some point in the porn discussion). My patience is sometimes tried because of my anxiety, which in turn can be fueled when I see how the world has decreased. It wasn’t until I read so many online things about the sex revolution that I realized the full extent of the problem, and it started wearing on me like plaque on tooth enamel. Incidentally, I can be very tolerant of movies that more conservative people hate, but SS looks to be the perfect combination of drive-you-batsy chick sweetness, faux spirituality and irresponsible teenhood looked upon as normal; that kind of thing has been emerging for some time and I start to worry more about kids. Sorry for the derailment of your thread and any misunderstandings that took place.


  1. A Great Christian Film: Bad Lieutenant (1992) | ivvenalia - August 11, 2011

    […] Soul Surfer. (Though maybe it isn’t without merit.) If you want to see a movie about Christian forgiveness and redemption, queue up Nirvana, go back to […]

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