Many of us have never experienced what it’s like to be a surfer and catch a competition-winning wave. Many of us will not be sponsored by famous brand names and get our pictures in magazines for our athletic abilities. Many of us will also never experience a shark attack as pro surfer Bethany Hamilton did, losing her arm but never losing her spirit — as cheesy as it sounds.

Soul Surfer

At Rave and Quality 16

Of course, a film like “Soul Surfer” needs to be slightly cheesy because of its sappy messages of love, faith, perseverance and family. However, any cheesiness that oozes out of the film can be tolerated and even appreciated as a product of its adherence to the real-life events. AnnaSophia Robb (“Race to Witch Mountain”) shines as Bethany, telling the story of her tragic injury and subsequent journey of faith to get back on the board and do what she does best. What results is a surprisingly touching film about beating the odds and keeping the faith, no matter the situation.

The sunny Hawaiian locale makes audiences practically cry in anticipation of summer, bathing suits and bleached-out hair. However, there are some deeper messages that should take precedence. After losing almost 60 percent of her blood as a result of the attack, Bethany should not be able to surf. She shouldn’t be alive. But, she does both — living and surfing — and she does them well.

It’s nice to see Helen Hunt (“Twister”) and Dennis Quaid (“G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra”) on the screen together. As Bethany’s parents and main cheerleaders of her passion, they work nicely as a duo and lend themselves well to their roles. Yet sometimes their reliance on religion — the whole movie emphasizes religion — seems forced. Obviously the story needs to have an element of faith in order to work because of the real-life Hamilton family’s belief in God. But audience members might be turned off by the sometimes overbearing Biblical references and church hymns. In reality, accepting a tragic accident is not an easy thing to do, but by inundating viewers with Christian themes, the film makes light of the accident and trivializes Bethany’s loss.

However, the filmmakers tackled the daunting task of representing a near-fatal shark attack with good taste, no comical “Jaws” fakeness in sight. The attack looks scarily realistic and the immediate emotions of both Bethany and her family after the attack are tear-jerkingly genuine. If the audience doesn’t love the gory attack scene, they will love seeing Carrie Underwood’s supporting role as Bethany’s youth minister. All of this, coupled with a pleasantly surprising soundtrack filled with happy, sun-drenched beats, results in a well-rounded film audiences will love.

Yes, the script is gag-worthy at times because of the film’s necessity to appeal to audiences young and old, but a few minor dumb lines can be ignored if the ultimate messages — faith and perseverance — are remembered. The sunny, grab-life-by-the-horns nature of “Soul Surfer” will leave audiences feeling good and ready to meet their next challenges with as much bravery as Bethany did — though maybe without as much surfer-girl style.

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