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Bethany Hamilton made national headlines on October 31, 2003 when a 14-foot tiger shark bit off the 13-year-old Hawaiian surfer’s arm. Instead of having its world premiere on the Christian Broadcasting Network, this faith-based biopic erroneously found its way to the big screen.

The CGI shark attack is sudden and quite effective as is the way the filmmakers manage to electronically camouflage her missing appendage. AnnaSophia Robb (Because of Winn-Dixie, Sleepwalking) plays Hamilton, and while she looks the part the young actress doesn’t bring much in the way of urgency to the role of a teenage girl who recently fell victim to a shark attack. All she wants to do is surf. Helen Hunt, gradually easing into her Jodie Foster period, and dependable Dennis Quaid play her parents. As Hamilton’s mentor, American Idol winner Carrie Underwood makes her film debut reciting scriptures instead of dialog.

For those who question spending their precious entertainment dollars on a fact-based story about a teenager who loses an arm to a shark, take heart. Next time you're at the multiplex sneak in to see the last five minutes. All you really need to know about Soul Surfer is contained in the film’s closing credit montage of the Hamilton family’s home movies which director Sean McNamara (Bratz, Raise Your Voice, That’s So Raven) basically refilms with professional actors.

Prior to Soul Surfer, screenwriter Douglas Schwartz acted as primary executive producer on all 324 episodes of Baywatch which may account for the plethora of teenage girls running around in skimpy swimwear. For all its good intentions, the end results of this triumph of the human spirit are reduced to little more than Beach Blanket Limb-Go minus Frankie and Annette.

Reader Rating: *

MPAA Rating: PG

(Photo of Bethany Hamilton and AnnaSophia Robb courtesy Affirm Films.)

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