Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Go See Soul Surfer!

Shortest review in history: Loved it. Thumbs up. Wholesome, inspirational family movie.
Qualifying Confession: I’m a Bethany Hamilton fan.

I simply find her story fascinating. I love Kauai, love surfing, and love people putting Jesus first. You add a horror like a shark attack leaving an aspiring surf champion with one arm, and you’ve got all of the elements of a brilliant human interest story.

So, when I have an opinion about this movie, it’s qualified in the fact that I’ve followed her story from the very beginning, when even from the hospital after losing her arm, she was giving God glory.

I bought and read the book, Soul Surfer, when it came out, which chronicles her life and story, and it was excellent, written by my good buddy Rick Bundschuh, who is the pastor of Kauai Christian Fellowship, which is exactly where I’m hoping to serve when I get to heaven.

When the 31 minute documentary came out about Bethany getting back in the water three weeks after the attack, called Heart of a Soul Surfer, we bought and devoured it. It helps that I taught my daughter Alex and my son Caleb to surf at the exact same pier in Hanalei Bay. Watching her come back from a tragic event, filled with joy and faith, and eventually become one of the best female surfers on the planet (number 23 to be precise)…that’s an incredible underdog saga. And yet, you’re sort of amazed at Bethany’s steadfast faith…she never comes across as the underdog. She never views herself as handicapped or disabled. She’s just herself, a vibrant girl loving Jesus and the surf he provides, and she lives Romans 8:28 magnificently.

Trial makes some bitter. Bethany is miraculously better, and millions have been inspired by her faith, and tenacity. Honestly, she’s just a great lover of Jesus. And I want to be like her.

So, the MOVIE: Soul Surfer.
I loved it. Go see it. Twice. My son Duzi said it’s his favorite movie ever (he’s six). He told me after watching it: “Lots of people have two arms. Some people have one. Nobody has four, or twenty.” Needless to say, he was inspired.

What’s great about it: Kauai, surfing, and watching people put family and faith first. It is inspiring to realize what an inspiration Bethany is to all sorts of kids (and grownups) who face unique, tragic circumstances. Most of the acting is great. If anyone ever makes a movie about my life, I pray they cast Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt as MY parents. (my wife stole that line from me, but the truth is that I steal lines all the time and what goes around…) And the actress playing Bethany Hamilton is great (AnnaSophia Robb), emotive, believable as a surfer, and a phenomenal choice.

Here’s what’s typical:
1. Faith dialogue in the movies always sounds like it was written by Hallmark. Jesus is mentioned twice, and there are a couple of verses of Scripture referenced. But it’s pretty safe. In the documentary, you get a much more realistic witness of authentic faith. The movie didn’t do a poor job, it just did a typical job, not stepping into the possibility that even this tragic event might be a showcase for God’s glory and love revealed. I keep waiting for a guy like Aaron Sorkin to become a believer, and then we’ll see some snippy, intelligent conversations about faith while people walk briskly on the big screen. You can watch Bethany’s personal testimony on my wife’s blog (sunbreaksintherainycity.com) or the website called I Am Second. She’s for real.

2. Carrie Underwood. She’s beautiful, cool, and cast here as a draw to 12 year old pre-teens, but honestly, even my daughter’s friends thought she wasn’t a strong actress. I am sure she’s a wonderful person, but her presence and her accent felt out of place on the north shore of Kauai.

3. Editing. I couldn’t help but think that just a bit of a larger budget might have made the editing jump from a B to an A.

None of these things are real deterrents…I still think this is the family movie of the year. I did take Duzi (who is 6) out of the theater when the actual shark attack happens, just because I didn’t want to risk potential nightmares. My 8 and 11 year old surfer kids loved the entire thing. And Jodie and I were emotional multiple times as we watched parents walk the hard road of having a child suffer. We’ll own it when it comes out on DVD, so we have the entire Bethany Hamilton library.

Finally, as a pastor, a believer, and a dad, I’d love for this movie to get a ton of traction. I’d love for people to realize that most of the things that distract, deter or disappoint us are mostly molehills. Come watch a true story about a tragic event as big as a mountain, that a faith-filled surfer girl throws into the depths before she joyfully surfs the glorious waves that she thanks Jesus for creating.