Movie Review

Soul Surfer

MPAA Rating: PG for an intense accident sequence and some thematic material.

Reviewed by: Daniel Thompson
CONTRIBUTOR

Good
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Family Teens Adults
Genre:
Biography Action Sports Drama
Length:
1 hr. 40 min.
Year of Release:
2011
USA Release:
April 8, 2011 (wide—2,000 theaters)
DVD: August 2, 2011
Copyright, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Affirm Films click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Affirm Films Copyright, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Affirm Films Copyright, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Affirm Films Copyright, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Affirm Films Copyright, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Affirm Films Copyright, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Affirm Films
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Affirm Films

faith

love

Post-traumatic anxiety and depression

ANXIETY, FEAR AND WORRY—What does the Bible say? Answer

SELF-IMAGE—I’m ugly. Why was God so unfair to me this way? Answer

DEPRESSION—Are there biblical examples of depression and how to deal with it? Answer

What should a Christian do if overwhelmed with depression? Answer

courage—strength through God

Why do bad things happen to good people?

Why does God allow good people to suffer? Answer

What about the issue of suffering? Doesn’t this prove that there is no God and that we are on our own? Answer

Does God feel our pain? Answer

What about the Psalm 91 promises? (“…no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent…”) Answer

ORIGIN OF BAD—How did bad things come about? Answer

Did God make the world the way it is now? What kind of world would you create? Answer

Teen Qs™—Christian Answers for teenagers
Teens—Have questions? Find answers in our popular TeenQs section. Get answers to your questions about life, dating and much more.

Hope

Click here to watch THE HOPE on-line!
Discover God’s promise for all people—told beautifully and clearly from the beginning. Discover The HOPE! Watch it on-line, full-length motion picture.


Interested in new Christian movies? See our Christian Film News site.

Featuring: AnnaSophia Robb—Bethany Hamilton
Dennis Quaid—Tom Hamilton
Helen Hunt—Cheri Hamilton
Kevin Sorbo—Holt Blanchard
Jeremy Sumpter—Byron
Craig T. Nelson—Dr. Rovinksy
Carrie Underwood—Sarah Hill
more »
Director: Sean McNamara
Producer: Brookwell-McNamara Entertainment
Enticing Entertainment
Island Film Group
more »
Distributor: TriStar, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Affirm Films, FilmDistrict

“When you come back from a loss, beat the odds, and never say never, you find a champion. The inspiring true story of Bethany Hamilton.”

This film is based on the book Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family and Fighting to Get Back on the Board written by Bethany Hamilton, herself, a born-again Christian.

book cover

Why do bad things happen to good people? How do people overcome tragedies in their own lives? Is it possible to have faith in God when it seems that your life is crumbling around you? These questions, along with many more, are resoundingly answered in “Soul Surfer”, the new film from Affirm studios. Affirm is a company that belongs to Sony Pictures, and is dedicated to making mainstream faith-based films. “Soul Surfer” tells the amazing true story of professional surfer Bethany Hamilton, and how her loving family and strong faith helped her overcome major tragedy as a teen.

Bethany Hamilton grew up with her mom, dad, and two brothers in the state of Hawaii. She surfed since she was a toddler and had a natural ability that was furthered by her loving and supportive parents. At age 14, Bethany was such a great surfer that she was already sponsored by a national company. Shortly after this sponsorship, she was the victim of a shark attack, losing her left arm in the process. While this attack shook Bethany and her entire family, it eventually gave Bethany a new perspective, as well as an added desire to continue to surf.

“Soul Surfer” takes a while to get going, but when it does, it takes off and becomes a redemptive sports tale similar to “Rudy” or “Miracle”. The story is inspirational and even more amazing because it’s true. The film is also family friendly, containing zero instances of foul language or inappropriate behavior. The only content issues come in the form of a brief shark attack containing blood that could be upsetting for little ones, as well as the fact that girls and women are seen throughout the film in bikinis, which should be expected, considering that the movie is a true story about surfers in Hawaii.

“Soul Surfer” is not a ‘Christian’ film in the same vein of “Facing the Giants” or “Fireproof”, but it nonetheless a Christian film. While those two films are focused squarely on a direct gospel message, this film tells an inspiring story of a Christian family. The desire of the filmmakers was to provide a film that has an authentic Christian message, but is also mainstream so that teenagers can take their friends. After all, Jesus did not always preach specific repentance; sometimes he used parables to teach an important Christian value or character trait. “Soul Surfer” is a true story that’s also a parable, emphasizing the importance of family, faith, church, and the belief that one can do “all things through Him who gives you strength”.

Another difference between “Soul Surfer” and previous faith based films is that this movie has a bigger budget, and the Hollywood production values make a big difference in the quality of the movie. Filmed on location in Hawaii, “Soul Surfer” looks excellent, and the surfing scenes are expertly filmed. AnnaSophia Robb (“Because of Winn Dixie,” “Race to Witch Mountain”) is adequate in the lead role of Bethany Hamilton. There are a few effects issues, and while some of the younger and less experienced actors like Carrie Underwood and Lorraine Nicholson struggle, veterans Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt are true professionals, adding a sense of realism to the picture.

While “Soul Surfer” is far from a perfect movie, it is a step in the right direction for moviemaking quality of faith based films. It is also an attempt by a major movie studio to put money into quality films that encourage Christian values, and that is reason enough to support it. If you’re looking for a inspirational film for the whole family, with no objectionable content and an excellent message, “Soul Surfer” is your movie.

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: None / Sex/Nudity: Minor

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Bethany HamiltonLearn about the real Bethany Hamilton—her official site


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—Wow, what a moving portrayal from a tragic event in an American life. Most people had heard of Bethany’s story because of the massive media coverage at the time of the event, and the promoters of this film did an amazing job of getting the word out, and the theatre I was in was PACKED on opening night.

This is not a low budget Christian film, this is a Hollywood production with amazing Christian elements in it, wow. The scene of the shark attack was really well done, and was not scary like I assumed it would be. I loved the great songs, I would have loved for them to have all been faith songs, they’re so much better at telling Bethany’s story. Thank you so much for getting Britt Nicole’s “Set The World On Fire,” what a great anthem for you, Bethany.

It was so neat meeting Bethany, her mom and her youth leader portrayed in the film. Bethany is the real deal, and I am so glad seeing her embrace far more people with one arm than she could have with two… Every movie I see I prescreen for my kids. My girls will definitely be seeing this one.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Tim Stromer, age 44 (USA)
Positive—Others have been offended by the bikini clad-girls. There were definitely some of those. However, it is a movie about surfing. Don’t go to Hawaii (or any beach/water park), if bikinis offend you. It was not gratuitous. The message was clear and the clips at the end of the movie pointed directly to the source of her hope: Jesus Christ. They presented World Vision as people concerned for the welfare of others. They even started the movie with, “Blessed by Your Name” by Matt Redman. That alone got me choked up. I’ve never written a recommendation on this site, but I felt that this was movie worth recommending. If you can handle a day at the beach, go see this movie!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Darren, age 39 (USA)
Positive—This is not an overtly Christian movie that would turn your non-believing friends off. This is not a movie about redemption, but about the redeemed. It is a movie about a devoutly Christian family. I say these things because there have been Christian movies in which there is a “place testament and alter call here” feeling—a push for Christianity, rather than showing lives of Christians. This is a movie which shows an example of the oft-used phrase “I don’t read the Bible, but I can read you.” The families come across as a “real family” as my wife said. “They have real conflicts and feelings”.

Yes, it was a story about surfing, in Hawai’i, on beaches, with adults and teens. The actors and actresses are dressed as such. “Nuff said! Being of a film and television background, I often find myself thinking of what is going on behind the camera during a bad or boring scene. I was completely engaged throughout the entire movie. The cinematography was excellent—especially the surfing scenes. more »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Robert Ludwig, age 57 (USA)
Positive—Having just read the Associated Press article earlier in the day (who gave it just one star), I went not expecting much. The theatre had a lot of young teens who were restless while waiting for the film to begin. My wife and I thought we might end up switching seats, if it got too noisy during the film, but once it began we could sense everyone really focusing on the film, being very gripped by it. No one shuffling around, going out for popcorn. Just very quiet and focused. And the movie deserved that focus.

Yes, some low quality CGI work, some sticky lines, distracting scenery for surfers who really know what they’re watching (scenes switching between Hawaii and Tahiti in seconds, instant set waves, etc.), and the stereotypical “bad surfer girl competitor” thrown in. But the basic drama of recovering from a vicious shark attack, trying to learn to live a new life, her family not know quite how to support her, and the biggest question for a believer in God—WHY???—it worked for me, and it seemed to work for just about everyone in the theatre. Many stayed around to see the credits—always a good sign.

My wife and I were very glad we saw this life-affirming film that showed Christianity in a very positive light.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Scott, age 56 (USA)
Positive—I thought carefully about whether or not to see this movie after reading the mixed reviews on this site. As a Christian man who is striving to grow in his faith, I try to avoid unnecessary visual temptation. I decided to take my wife because, in large part, I want to support family-friendly movies, especially those that have a faith based theme. Unfortunately, these movies are few and far between which is why we rarely go to the movie theater. We found this to be an emotionally powerful movie with an inspirational, true story message. Also, the surfing footage is compelling viewing. more »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Bruce, age 53 (USA)
Positive—I thought this was a great movie! I try to support Christian films, and films that support the Christian faith. Often this can mean watching a somewhat cheesy film, that it is unlikely a non-believer would sit through. This film was realistic, inspiring, and well made. It started out okay, and got better and better.

I would highly recommend this film both for its movie making quality, and its encouraging and Christian message. I know that some were disappointed that there were not overt redemption scenes, and the like. However, I think that is precisely why this movie will reach a broader audience, with what I believe is a solidly Christian message.

As for the bikinis, I think it would be hard to have a realistic beach/surfing film that did not have swim suits. Certainly if the swim wear is a great temptation for someone, then they may want to skip the movie, but I did not personally think there was anything overtly sexual or seeking to entice about this movie.

I highly recommend this movie for all audiences!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 4
—John, age 37 (USA)
Positive—My teenage son was worried that “Soul Surfer” would be a “chick-flick,” but he really enjoyed it. I thought it would be good, but was pleasantly surprised that it was excellent. In addition to Brittany’s faith, courage, and determination, inspirational in itself, we also noted many, many positive things in this movie. Showing realistic and positive ways that faith in Jesus Christ helps people in everyday life and in crises was refreshing. Not only do they quote and paraphrase scripture, they live it. more »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Tori, age 40 plus (USA)
Positive—“Soul Surfer” is a very inspirational and heartfelt movie; I had tears pouring down my face throughout. I thought the acting, for the most part, was good and AnnaSophia Robb, Dennis Quaid, and Helen Hunt were convincing as Bethany and her parents, respectively.

One of my favorite parts is in the beginning, when Bethany and her family are surfing and they’re just having so much fun together; I really believed that they were a family. I, also, enjoyed the fact that it was about a Christian family and their faith was displayed positively throughout the movie. I got chills when they were singing “Blessed be Your Name” in the church service; I have never heard a worship song being sung in a movie theater before and for me, it was powerful! more »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Sarah C., age 20 (USA)
Positive—I am very discouraged to read some of the reviews about this movie from non-viewers. This story is about a Christian family that had a tragedy. The bathing suit issue that a non-viewer criticized about the movie is just sad. We need to support Christian movies. The girl was a surfer. The attire was swimsuit clothes.

This movie will truly inspire you. A young child just starting her teens loses her arm and comes back within a few weeks to take on a surfing competition. Scripture is quoted in the film, also. It is worth going to see. more »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Karen, age 45 (USA)
Positive—I am changed after seeing this inspirational film. I will be recommending it to all of my friends. After taking a group of girls from my church, I was very excited about the changes they wanted to make in their lives, as well. The girls said they wanted to help people more, tell others more about God, and be happy with who they were in Christ.

I have read negative comments about the attire of the film and Bethany’s night swim, but find it unimportant. Unless your child has been kept in a bubble, they have seen far more walking down the street! Although my daughters and I dress differently, I do not choose to judge my fellow Christians. I am from a different American culture than her family. The film was portraying Bethany Hamilton’s life, including its imperfections. I could only hope to impact as many people as she has!

I am thankful that the film portrays a real life experience, because it will appeal to more non-Christians. I am praying for the success of Bethany’s ministry with this film and for the people who will be brought to God because of it! Come just as you are and hear the Savior calling! We can change the little things later!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Michelle Ford, age 38 (USA)
Positive—Wow! “Soul Surfer” was excellent. Had a great positive message, along with excellent photography and acting. I was totally caught up in it for the entire time. After reading some of the comments, I thought the movie might have way too much “flesh”; however it was actually done very tastefully. The movie is about surfing in Hawaii… You are going to have bikinis. I felt they were really careful to not show too much.

This is the kind of movie that I may have to go see again while it is in theaters. I have 4 teenagers, and I want them all to see it.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Steve F, age 48 (USA)
Positive—First, I want to say I’m very surprised by the negative reviews saying they’re shocked because girls wear bikinis in this movie. The bikinis in this movie were not even that bad. I didn’t even notice the bathing suits while watching the movie. I was so caught up in the story and the movie’s message that it didn’t bother me.

Second, I want to say this is the BEST movie I’ve seen in theaters for a while! My friend and I went to go see it this afternoon, and we both enjoyed it! Not only was this movie entertaining, but it had such strong messages of family value, never giving up, and facing courage even when life throws you down.

This movie is the least offensive movie I’ve seen in theaters in the longest time. There was no language, no sexual content, NOTHING morally wrong. THIS is the best movie to go to!

I’m really impressed by how much they put God into the story. Hollywood didn’t cut Him out. God is the reason why Bethany Hamilton was so successful as a surfer after her shark attack, and the movie clearly shows this! Please go see this movie and support this! I have a lot of admiration for Bethany, for her courage and determination. This movie made me want to learn more about her, and to appreciate the time I have with my family and friends.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Sarah, age 20 (USA)
Positive— Yes, this is a Christian movie. No, this movie does not contain modesty. This movie does have indecent exposure, based upon opinion. Please, do not misunderstand me, I believe biblically that bikinis are immodest. Yet, those beliefs are based upon personal convictions, and how I was raised. Having been on the beach more than once, bikinis are truly standard swimwear. In fact, except for church functions, I rarely see any one piece swim suits. When Christian Answers wrote that the girls wore bikinis, they really meant it. Would I feel right about taking my dad or brothers to such a movie, due to indecent exposure? No, but if my brothers decided at a more mature age that such exposure would not cause them to sin. If they would research, prayed, and seek out God’s will about the film, then I would fully support their decision, because it is a good film.

I loved the closeness of their family. The way Bethany’s hardships drew her to God. And, above all, with God’s strength, she conquered her fears. The only other negative is that she sneaked off to go “night surfing” without parental permission. Other than that, I would recommend this movie to watch with young girls, because it teaches a lesson that many are going through. more »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Shauna, age 18 (USA)
Positive—Hooray for uplifting family films, where Christianity is portrayed positively by popular actors! I thoroughly enjoyed this movie… it had everything I could wish for. The only thing that irked me was when one of the girls made a derisive comment about a one-piece swim suit. Am I the only girl out there who hates bikinis?
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Joely Rishardz, age 18 (USA)
Positive—My husband, teenager and I all went to see this together. We all liked it a lot. The story pulls you in, and keeps you there. Prepare to have your heart tugged and tears to fall—but to end up with a smile on your face, and in your heart, at the end. How wonderful to see a film about a Christian family that keeps the “Christian stuff” in the movie and is not cut-out.

It is also refreshing to see a Christian story told in a well made film instead of a low-budget project. Our family has set through many low-budget movies, because it was a Christian film. That is definitely not the case with this movie, it was top notch all the way. So take your entire family and watch this film. The only ones who shouldn’t see it would be small children, and anyone bothered by an attaching shark or some scenes involving blood. This is a true story, so the shark and the after-effects need to be in it.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Becky, age 52 (USA)
Positive—Good movie, with a positive message. The bikini scenes were few and far between. Most of the surfing shots were of girls in swim shirts with bikini bottoms on or swim shorts. There was one scene where a girl picked out a tiny bikini at the store, and Bethany and her friend make a comment along the lines that it’s too small. The movie was clearly focused on the story line and didn’t try to be sexy, in any way. Not sure why some are surprised that there are swimsuits in this movie. I wouldn’t expect characters about a shark attack to wear turtlenecks and ski-bibs.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Sara, age 36 (USA)
Positive—A good movie that we took our 12 year old daughter to. Positives: Fathers, portrayed positively. Christians and Christianity portrayed positively, Homeschooling portrayed positively. Functional family (vs. dysfunctional). Courage and perseverance. Selflessness portrayed.

Negatives: Carrie Underwood’s acting needs work. Caveats Regarding modesty, there are a lot of attractive girls in bikinis throughout the movie. However, except for the photo shoot scene, the girls do not act out sexually. Sex is not part of the movie, not even a subplot. No thongs or the like. The photo shoot scene is fairly tame.

Final thoughts: Even if you think the bikinis and immodesty are an issue, support this movie. It is a step in the right direction for Hollywood, for all the reasons I listed under “positives”.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Guy, age 42 (USA)
Positive—I enjoyed this movie with my 9 year old and 14 year old. I think there was a little too much skin, but then again, they are in Hawaii surfing! I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the Lord’s name was misused 3 times; it is a Hollywood film. I didn’t hear it the first time (when the shark attack happened), but it showed up on the sub-titles. Another instance was from a young girl who wanted Bethany’s autograph, and she gave her her surfboard, instead. I can’t recall the 3rd instance, but I know I audibly heard it twice. We use a filter on our DVD player to filter out foul language and profanity, but didn’t think we needed to on this one. I was wrong. I can take a few cuss words, but defaming the Lord’s name is never ok for our family. Overall, I think Hollywood did a good job in portraying this true story, but I’m guessing the real Bethany Hamilton would have wanted her faith explained more than what it was in this movie (i.e., Her relationship with Jesus as personal, and not just her being a religious person who attends church and youth group and goes on a mission trip).
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Brandy Amburgey, age 33 (USA)
Positive—Based on the real life events of surfer Bethany Hamilton, this film was a nice change of pace from much of the garbage being pumped out by Hollywood at the moment. Strong performances by veteran actors Dennis Quaid, Helen Hunt and AnnaSophia Robb helped eclipse the weaknesses of newcomers such as Carrie Underwood. Seeing the development of Bethany go from care-free teenager to shark attack victim to inspiring surfer made this film an entertaining watch. Personally, I found no real offensive material in this film. Having said that… if watching people in bikinis (yikes!) surf is too offensive to you and makes you give this film a negative review, then surely no films, except maybe under the Sherwood Pictures banner will make your cut.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Matthew Soo, age 33 (USA)
Positive—I just saw this movie, and it was so inspiring and cleansing for me. Although it’s nothing too serious, there are certain things I needed to hear that came from this movie. It’s a beautiful, inspiring story.

As for the bikinis I grew up on an island, and they have no impact on me whatsoever or my guy friends, or my dad. We grew up around it. They were not tiny bikinis, and if you have ever lived on an island, you practically live with them on, and are used to them. I think it’s sad that people are trying to make little things like this a big deal.

Promote this movie, because it has a good message, and it is a true story, and they did not cover up her relationship with God. No matter how the movie might put it or what Bible version they are quoting, it is clear that she truly believes her strength came from God. People that struggle in life and find that connection to God, no matter how the connection is, are blessed.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Mariela, age 27 (USA)
Positive—I think the movie was put together very well… All these negative comments over some swimwear is nuts… People… If you go to a beach, this is what you see… especially in a tropical climate… The only thing dirty about it is the people with the filthy mind that can’t see a female in a bikini without having thoughts of filth running through their mind… The problem seems to lie in the viewer thoughts and character… NOT the movie or actors…

If you cannot sit and watch a movie with some girls in bikinis on it, without having thoughts of a sexual nature flooding your mind, then you need to go back to the altar and ask the Lord for Deliverance of a filthy, pornographic, lustful and evil mind… Stop passing the buck for where the real problem lies… Go Check yourself… not someone else. If you see someone in a movie drinking a beer or doing some drugs, does it make you want to do them to??? Get real people… A speck in your brothers eye… and a plank in your own.

The movie is a good movie… nothing that should cause a person to commit any sins by watching it…
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Larry, age 45 (USA)
Positive—Okay, I have to say to some of the “negative” commenters… seriously?! For Heaven’s sakes people, lighten up! You guys are “gonna freak out over a bikini… and ignore the Gospel Message that is strewn throughout this great film. What do you expect them to wear… jeans? Nun outfits? Just because some girl is wearing a bikini, doesn’t mean that every guy jumps straight to the “lust” category. And ever think that it’s not sinful to find someone attractive? Yeah, there’s a radical concept! So apparently, thinking a girl is attractive, is lust. And by the way, it depends on how you look at the girls. I don’t look at them and think about them in a dirty way in my head. I look at them as sisters in Christ, I respect them, and guess what… YEAH! I find them attractive! …The film makers, were not “sexualizing” the girls when they made them wear a bathing suit. If you’re more focused on the negative side of things, and looking for details/connections to something bad, then you miss the good in it.…
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Anonymous, age 19 (USA)
Neutral

none

Negative
Negative—I totally agree with the other young lady, and I sure admire a 20 year old that will stand up for what is right! I did see the movie with my 2 teenage sons, my 10 year old and my husband. I must say I thought the story line was encouraging. I love the portrayal of strong family ties. BUT, I cringed the whole movie. I knew my young boys were taking in all those images (and there were a LOT) of young girls with barely anything on. My husband had his eyes closed for the majority of the movie. I was at a pre-screening offered by a “Christian” radio station. We were all encouraged by the PR person to go to our churches and community and tell people to go see this movie. I am sorry, I can’t in good conscience do that. I know of far too many men and teens struggling in the area of purity. If the church will not take a stand for morality, then why are we so shocked at the lack of it in this world?

Great story, encouraging, but way to gratuitous.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—anonymous, age 42 (USA)
Negative—I took my 16 year old to see this movie last night… We prayed in the theater seat before the movie quietly for Holy Ghost discernment and for Him to reveal anything that grieves Him. While nobody can argue that there is a powerful emotional pull in the movie, and it is motivating and encouraging to see somebody overcome a handicap and fulfil their dream, there were some bad issues from the perspective of a Holy God.

One neon clue was that “Enticing Entertainment” helped produce this movie. First off, a bikini is LESS clothes than a bra and underwear. Flirtatious activities are witnessed. If my girls were there, I would have been just as concerned as I wasn’t impressed with the 2 hairs on those young men’s chests… When they quote Philippians 4:13, they leave “Christ” out like the King James Bible has it. They say, “I can do all things through HIM who strengthens me.” The rock music being played is secular and says “this is the life” but Jesus is the life. She says surfing is “pure joy” but joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5) and not surfing. more »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Randy, age 40 (USA)
Negative—Although the movie started with a Christian song in a nice casual church, had beautiful surfing and underwater photography, etc.: I had a huge check in my spirit, which intensified the longer I watched and listened.

1. Unrealistically beautiful models used, compared to the beautifully-ordinary real Bethany, was the least of my concerns. As was the portrayal of her handling the situation almost perfectly (through meditative-type breathing).

2. Christian song at the beginning: church great; song good but NOT as a standalone as it incorrectly portrays the Character of God when out of context, as here. Can influence people negatively, rather than positively, about God, blame God, etc. more »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 1
—Galinda Nelson Cardinal Halyard, age 47 (South Africa)
Negative—After watching this movie and reading some of the other comments under the Negative section, I can concur with some the points shown:

1) Irrespective of whatever values the Hamiltons and other denizens of that part of Hawaii espouse, it does seem to appear that the film catered some to the “fleshy” desires of the male viewers. I can say that I had problems keeping focused more on the plot and less on the minimal clothing worn by some of the women surfers. It relieved me to see the competitions, because at least for those the women had to wear t-shirts to identify themselves. I noticed from the documentary accompanying the film that this may have been somewhat of an attempt to be realistic, as Bethany herself seems to wear bikinis when she surfs. I have no doubt from the documentary that she loves Jesus and has a heart to serve Him. She just may not have gotten a better revelation of what effect one’s dress has on men. My point is that the filmmakers pandering to “visual aids” may not have been the only factor in deciding what dress is appropriate. more »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality:
—Gordon, age 50 (USA)
Negative—The amount of flesh that was displayed in this movie was way over the top. Bikinis (very skimpy bikinis) were worn through out. Even the scenes when Brittany was very young had the young actresses in bikinis. The movie gives the impression that as Christians, it is OK to display your half naked body in public. After her accident Brittany was disappointed that she would not be able to be in a photo shoot with her friend wearing a bikini. So not only is it OK to wear the bikini at the beach, but to use the half naked imagery to sell a product. You can’t mix Christ with the world, and this is exactly what this movie tries to do (although the name of Christ was never mentioned and even omitted from a scripture reference).

This movie should be offensive to all Christians. If the film was not marketed as a “Christian” movie, I wouldn’t be so hard on it. I expect this type of flesh pedaling from the world, but as Christians, we are not supposed to mimic the world, but be distinctly different. The world has come into our churches until you can’t distinguish the church from the world.

Churches are taking their youth groups to see this as a Christian movie and in the process putting their stamp of approval on blatant sexual overtones of the film. I would say that you need to keep your teens as far away from this film as possible.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Pastor Marty, age 49 (USA)
Comments from young people
Neutral—I saw this at an advanced screening, and was quite impressed with the quality of the film. I thought it was very well acted, and I thought the film did an excellent job of portraying Bethany Hamilton’s story and message, and I was glad to see that it seems to be an adequately faithful adaptation to real-life events.

Having said that, I am sorry to not be able to give it a fully positive review, because, as other commenters have mentioned, there was a lack of modesty in the clothing. I think, even if the girls had worn their rash guards all the time, and their shorts had been longer, that would have been better, but much of the time they only wore bikinis. Because of this, I think many men would have difficulty watching the film and keeping their thoughts pure, and I think it also had a negative affect upon my thinking, as a woman, seeing the wearing of such little clothing being “normalized” for Christians in the film, if that makes sense.

I think it is very unfortunate that a movie which should have been about this young woman’s faith, determination, and the power of Christ in her life, should be sidelined by the obvious lack of modesty and discernment. I honestly wish I could give this a positive review.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Jacqueline, age 16 (Canada)
Positive—This movie is about a Christian girl, who loses her arm to a shark, and how she survived. This movie was pretty good. I liked it. I liked that they had praying and worship of the Lord. This movie inspired me. The final surfing tournament was AWESOME!!!… When Bethany was in the giant wave scene, I thought that was cool. One thing I didn’t like was the movie was too serious and not enough funny scenes. If they made a Soul Surfer video game, I might buy it.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Gabriel, age 13 (USA)
Positive—I saw “Soul Surfer” with my friend, the day it came out. We both laughed and cried and thought it was a very inspirational movie. Yes, there was many scenes with teenage girls in bikinis, but otherwise, no offensive material. The shark scene is quite scary, but you can always close your eyes, if needed. What we really loved is how Christ seemed to always be there throughout the movie and that many Bible verses were used. “Soul Surfer” is a great movie to see with your family and friends! I would highly recommend it!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Nicole, age 14 (USA)
Positive—I loved this movie! It was so great. There were some moral issues, however. There is blood, but what can you expect? I mean, the whole story is a girl who struggles with having only one arm when the other is bitten off by a shark. There are also a whole lot of girls running around in bikinis. Yet again, what to expect? Surfing movie = bathing suits. Bikini or not, this movie had some excellent moral values! I heard some Contemporary Christian music, heard some Bible verses, saw a youth group go on a mission trip. Compassion is huge. The huge love and friendship between two of the families is amazing. I thought that the movie was excellent, and I’m glad that I saw it.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Katie, age 12 (USA)
Positive—I loved this movie. Sure, they had bikinis, and some Christians lack purity, but they are not used to bring that appearance. In the movie, they are used as swim wear. We also have to remember that Christians didn’t film or act in the movie, just like in “The Blind Side.” There was swearing in “The Blind Side,” and it was based on Christian missionaries! Anyway, “Soul Surfer” had no sexual content, no bad language, nothing! When Bethany went on the mission trip, she learned that surfing wasn’t her life, and it was about showing love. They did not play secular music in the movie, only in the trailer. All the songs were Christian: “Like a Star” by Britt Nicole, “It’s Your Life” by Francesca Battistelli, and “Set the World on Fire” by Britt Nicole. She does say, surfing is her life, but it’s an expression. She means to say it’s her passion. more »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Pete, age 14 (Canada)
Positive—I am a fifteen year-old boy, and not once when watching it (I’ve seen it 5 times) were my thoughts impure. If your thoughts were impure, and if your husband had to close his eyes, there are some serious problems, then. Yes, they could have worn shorts, because some people cannot handle themselves, but, overall, it had a great message and was really inspiring. I didn’t find anything bad. I do agree they should have worn more, because not everyone watching can keep pure thoughts and not everyone watching is Christian.

About the music, this is Christian music. “Firework” was only used in the trailer (which I found inappropriate), but in the movie there were Christian songs. Britt Nicole’s “Set the world on fire” is about making a difference in the world. Francesca Batistelli’s “It’s Your Life” is about living your life for God. And when Bethany said that surfing was her life, that was before she realized her life was for God.

I’m seriously considering whether some of you who gave negative reviews actually watched the movie and not based it off the trailer. It was a great movie! God was definitely working through the filmmakers.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 2½
—Peter, age 15 (Canada)
Positive—“Soul Surfer” is an incredible uplifting movie. My husband and I, along with our four children (ages 7—15—three of them boys), have seen it countless times and love it. People that have a problem with the swimsuits have got issues in their own lives they need to get a handle on. Yes, there are bikinis, but they are NOT immodest. The girls who wear them are surfers in Hawaii. They are athletes involved in their sport, not beach babes modeling off their bodies. Reading some of the comments, if I never saw the movie, I’d think there were Victoria Secret models strutting around on the beach with the latest swimwear collection. The characters in this movie didn’t come close to that. They have your typical athletic build. Maybe these viewers would be happier if they all wore burkas—God forbid.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Lisa, age 47 (USA)
Comments from non-viewers
Negative—I seriously love movies that document true inspirational stories. And I am all for Bethany Hamilton. I read her book, I think she’s great. And, as a Christian, I love to see movies where God gets the glory, and through faith and love, people overcome. However, I won’t be seeing “Soul Surfer.” I watched the trailer, and I have to say that I was torn. The cinematography looks beautiful, the story very inspiring, and I think the actors will do a great job. All that is okay, but every other scene is your typical beach bikini scene. Because of the excessive cleavage and girl booty I would not see this, to say nothing of the sexualization of teen girls. I would, also, gently suggest that any guys or girls trying to keep their minds pure would avoid this one. There are lots of inspirational true-story movies out there, and, while they may not be produced with evangelical intent, they can still leave you feeling affirmed and positive afterwards (without the almost-nudity moral compromise).
—Amythest Johnson, age 20 (Canada)
Negative—I seriously love movies that document true inspirational stories. And I am all for Bethany Hamilton. I read her book, I think she’s great. And, as a Christian, I love to see movies where God gets the glory and through faith and love, people overcome.

However, I won’t be seeing “Soul Surfer.” I watched the trailer, and I have to say that I was torn. The cinematography looks beautiful, the story very inspiring, and I think the actors will do a great job. All that is okay, but every other scene is your typical beach bikini scene. Because of the excessive cleavage and girl booty, I would not see this, to say nothing of the sexualization of teen girls. I would also gently suggest that any guys or girls trying to keep their minds pure would avoid this one.

There are lots of inspirational true-story movies out there, and while they may not produced with evangelical intent, they can still leave you feeling affirmed and positive afterwards (without the almost-nudity moral compromise).
—Amythest Johnson, age 20 (Canada)
Negative—I know that the Bethany Hamilton story is an inspirational one, but I find it a little hard to watch. As Christians striving for holiness in all things, I find it a little hard to believe that this would not be a challenge for teenage guys to watch without having impure thoughts throughout the movie. Aren’t bikinis pretty much the same thing as bras/panties? Our culture has defined them as okay… but in reality, 50 years ago a woman would probably be put in jail for indecency for going out in public in a bikini… not trying to be legalistic, but the church preaches so much about modesty for girls and lust for guys, just seems a little strange that we as Christians would promote this movie. ESPECIALLY the (quick) scene where the girl is trying to tie the back of her bikini top???!!!… REALLY??? How is that something that is good for young men (even older men) to watch and see???… (doesn’t the Bible say that even a HINT of sexual impurity is wrong)

Please hear me out… I know that this is a great STORY about Bethany Hamilton, I was just a little shocked when I saw the trailer, and thought of all the churches who will, also, be promoting it, just for the guys in the pews to be fighting impure thoughts through the whole movie!
—Collins, age 30 (USA)
For all you people saying that this movie is impure because of girls in bikinis, it’s a movie about surfing what did you expect? A couple of people said they made their husbands close their eyes, so they don’t have impure thoughts. In my opinion, if you think your husband will have impure thoughts about a 14 year old girl in a bikini, there’s something wrong with him. There’s something slightly off if you won’t let a grown man watch a good PG rated Christian movie.
—Anonymous, age 15 (USA)
The user comments on this page very much sadden me. More or less because they can be summarized as follows: “Men are animalistic lust toads who cannot control their base desires and must be shielded from such filth.” That seems so condescending. I feel as though I deserve more respect than that. But, I, also, am sad for you—sad for all of the beautiful beaches that God created that you will presumably never see firsthand, out of your fear of sin.

…I am bothered by the objectivity of your comments, and more so by the condescension towards men, and women, too. We don’t all struggle with the same things, and it’s important to keep that in mind. That said, I have not seen this movie, and I don’t know that I’m planning on it. I generally find these types of movies somewhat manufactured and heavy-handed, and reviews by and large indicate that that’s what this will be. But for those who think it will be beneficial to see it—please do not begrudge them that right. Thanks.
—Matt T., age 19 (USA)
Neutral—I’m surprised that a few people acted offended when others honestly said that they have a problem with the partial nudity in this film; no, a wife shouldn’t cover her husband’s eyes nor should he lust over a young girl, but the sight of breasts is still distracting. Everyone struggles with thoughts of lust that are often triggered by visual stimuli, so there’s no need to act as though this is only “some” people’s problem. I have not seen this film, but I’ve read extensive summations from two women who have, and I share their concerns. While they’re more conservative than I and have greater problems with partial nudity, my concern was with the behavior of Bethany and Alana.

Didn’t Bethany sneak off to a night party, something which she never really regretted or apologized for? Then used the incredibly lame “Well, you would have said no” line to her mother? A line which was backed up by her irresponsible father? A thirteen-year-old child sneaks off to a night party, and her father excuses it?? Knowing this, I can’t believe the reviewer said, “The film is also family friendly, containing zero instances of foul language or inappropriate behavior.” That was VERY inappropriate, as was Alana’s string-bikini photo shoot with sultry poses and cat calls. Looks like a mostly good film, but definitely needs some good tweaking.
—Jennifer, age 26 (USA)
Negative—If showing skin to attract sinners to watch a “Christian” message is where we’re headed with Christian moviemaking, then we have certainly taken a step down from “Facing the Giant's” and “Fireproof”. We can say the right words, but the visual message that sensuality is ok comes through loud and clear. The Christian message has always been delivered differently from the world's, maybe even somewhat stodgy in the world’s eyes, but that has not stopped it’s popularity, especially in the third world. Why must we be different here in the Western world? Do we not think that God will judge? I have read the lame excuses by those who say, if you don’t want to see bikinis, don’t go to the beach. What we are discussing here is a “Christian” movie, not a public beach where people can choose to make whatever moral choices they want without implying that their choice of morals is consistent with their message. Beware, those of you who so easily excuse sexual sensuality.
—Stan, age 49 (USA)