User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 70 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 51 out of 70
  2. Negative: 13 out of 70
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  1. Apr 22, 2011
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. Maggie Fitzgerald(Hilary Swank) wins by TKO. From her seat on the canvas, Billie the Blue Bear(Lucia Rijker) looks temporarily confounded by the boxing match's dramatic turnaround. Once again, the underdog overcomes impossible odds to become a champion when nobody had given the perennial loser a shot. This moment of triumph usually signals, on cue, the fierce competitor's sudden transition into humbleness, congratulating the lesser opponent on a hard-fought victory, like when Apollo Creed seeks out The Italian Stallion at the end of John G. Avildsen's "Rocky". But filmmaker Clint Eastwood, in "Million Dollar Baby", an adaptation of the F.X. O'Toole novel "Rope Burns: Stories from the Corner" diverges from the norm. The slightly unconventional inspirational sports movie demonstrates that not all antagonists possess hearts of gold. The German ex-prostitute retaliates by blindsiding Maggie when her back is turned, landing the newly-minted world-beater in a hospital room for good, and is never seen or heard from again. The obligatory scene the moviegoer expects, where the Bear shows up at the paraplegic's bedside, at no time materializes. The heavy remains a heavy to the end. "Soul Surfer", with its relentlessly optimistic cast of well-meaning, but boring characters, is thankfully counterbalanced, saved really, from their overbearing promotion of a Christian rhetoric by the equally unlikable Malina Birch(Sonya Balmores), the rival surfer, who doesn't seem to care one bit that Bethany Hamilton(AnnaSophia Robb) survived a shark attack which left the then-thirteen-year-old girl one arm down. If a movie ever was sorely in need of a rancorous presence, it's certainly this one. Malina is more cold-blooded than the great white, but Bethany, obviously a glass half-full kind of girl, misreads the surfer's pitiless dealings with her as tough love, in which at one point, she tells her best friend Alana(Lorraine Nicholson) that "she's treating me like real competition," as if a method exists to the austere enchanter's unsportsmanship. The antics that Malina pulls during the surf meets looks more like a concerted effort on her part to humiliate Bethany. She calls attention towards the young girl's handicap by stealing waves the recovering athlete is too slow to catch, and in one instance, nearly grazes Hamilton during a ride which is analogous to dunking in your foremost rival's face. Unspoken in "Soul Surfer", but duly noted by those in the know, is the probability that the basis of Malina's animosity toward Bethany is a racial one. Although the blond clearly identifies herself as "kama'aina", a local, the more Hawaiian-looking girl obviously views Bethany as an outsider. The inauthentic dialogue obscures this fact. Apart from a few yeahs tossed in sporadically at the end of sentences(just like the Minnesotans in Joel & Ethan Coen's "Fargo"), "Soul Surfer" largely avoids the potential pitfalls of recreating the idiosyncratic dialect which identifies the speaker as native, a subculturist wary of perceived intruders on their home turf. Owning a ukulele doesn't give you local cred. In most cases, local cred is predetermined through skin color. In all likelihood, Malina hates Bethany unconditionally because she's "haole"(the Hawaiian word for "foreigner"). Even a catastrophic injury to the Caucasian aquatist can't remedy the indigenous girl's long-standing repulsion for her one-time colonizer. The slur can be inferred through the glee Malina projects each time she bests the one-armed surfer. But that's okay. God only knows this aggressively faith-based film could use a devil to muck up the calibration in its ecclesiastical design. At times, "Soul Surfer", with its stringent fundamentalist teachings, can be downright Calvinistic, hinting ever so slightly that Bethany is being punished for her alleged selfishness, when she puts her budding surfing career ahead of the church. Vanity, it is suggested, costs Bethany her arm, because had she gone to Mexico with the other missionaries as planned, rather than train for an important surf meet, the tragedy could have been averted. As if to overstate this point, at her first professional event following the attack, Bethany stops to glance at a TV monitor filled with natural disaster imagery from the third world. Not wanting to make the same mistake twice, she puts away her gameface, replacing it with a shameface, a visage better suited for reflecting upon all those homeless children, just how her church sponsor Sarah(Carrie Underwood) would want it. With the internet image of the Venus de Milo still fresh on her mind(thanks, Helen Hunt), Bethany helps with the tsunami relief in Thailand, before returning back home to continue what would become the start of her banner career. Malina wins, due to a technicality, and improbably, invites Bethany to stand beside her on the winner's podium. "Soul Surfer" forgets who Malina is. Expand
  2. Jul 22, 2012
    Great true story it is a totally inspiring story, oh this movie may just be wonderful. It isn't, this movie has uninspiring dialogue, bad acting surprising from AnnaSophia Robb and no chemistry between its stars. I give this movie 27%.
  3. Jul 3, 2012
    This film is utter garbage. From the acting, to the editing, to the dialogue, to the crap load of cliches, pretty much everything in this movie is terribly executed. It doesn't help that this movie is filled with over-the-top Christian preachiness. Ugh. Just awful.
  4. Aug 5, 2011
    Such a shame... the real-life story is truly inspiring, but the movie is one of the poorest attempts that Hollywood as ever made to bring a true story to the big screen. The actors were good (except for Carrie Underwood, who needs to stick with singing), but that's the only positive thing I can say. The story was poorly told. It's obvious that the movie makers wanted to make a movieSuch a shame... the real-life story is truly inspiring, but the movie is one of the poorest attempts that Hollywood as ever made to bring a true story to the big screen. The actors were good (except for Carrie Underwood, who needs to stick with singing), but that's the only positive thing I can say. The story was poorly told. It's obvious that the movie makers wanted to make a movie about surfing rather than tell Bethany's story. I'm severely disappointed in this one. Expand
  5. Aug 5, 2011
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. I watched Soul Surfer with the expectation of an inspiring story of a girl overcoming a great tragedy, and i received nothing more than what seemed like a cheap, ill thought-out film about a girl who overcomes losing an arm to surf. The acting was bad. The writing and dialogue was bad. The editing and cinematography was absolutely awful. While the overall message of the movie was inspiring, I was way to distracted by the movies downfalls to care. This movie is great for anyone who doesn't care about plot or acting, or anyone under the age of 12. Expand
  6. Jul 10, 2011
    Its the kind of movie you might watch on a sunday afternoon with Faith based commercials spanning the whole movie. The movie is weak. The acting is weak. Couldnt finish it. Can be purchased in the discount bin at your local store in a few months time.
  7. Mar 21, 2014
    i saw this film to many times . i understand people who like it or the critics . Bethany Hamilton is the greatest surfer and survivor alive today . but still i saw this movie a billion times
    Grade F+

Mixed or average reviews - based on 27 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 10 out of 27
  2. Negative: 3 out of 27
  1. Reviewed by: Stephanie Zacharek
    Apr 11, 2011
    Thus ends one of the most understated shark-attack sequences, ever; it's almost Bressonian, except it's not boring.
  2. Reviewed by: Connie Ogle
    Apr 10, 2011
    It's a good, solid family film.
  3. Reviewed by: Peter Rainer
    Apr 10, 2011
    Hamilton is played, blandly, by Anna Sophia Robb, and her devoted parents, less bland, are played by Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt. The surfing footage, much of it shot off the coast of Kauai, is not bland at all.