Another Opinion about Soul Surfer

I’ve been hearing mixed reviews about the new film Soul Surfer, with its strong Christian message. Here’s an opinion you’ll want to hear.

Let me back up just a bit.

Having missed the screening myself, I sent one of our writer/reviewers Matt Furby to see it a few weeks back. He liked it, but was critical of it’s film making (a little cheesy to some) in his review. This brought in varied responses from our readers (some angry).

Meanwhile, Todd, our other movie reviewer, told me, “Jonathan, I’m bringing some kids to go see the film. Do you want me to send you my two cents when I’m done?” I told him I’d be happy to share a second opinion.

Here’s Todd’s Candid take on SOUL SURFER, from the perspective of a youth pastor and a dad:

I think it’s fair to say that the majority of “Christian films” fall way short when compared to the big budget Hollywood blockbusters. Most of them are straight-to-DVD releases and get little to no exposure. Of course there are always exceptions… The Passion of the Christ, Facing the Giants and Fireproof have given many of us hope that “Christian films” can make an impact in the world and at the box office (forgive me but Facing the Giants and Fireproof still score pretty high on the Cheese Meter).

 

So when my friend and author of Soul Surfer told me that Hollywood was making a film about Bethany’s story, I had mixed emotions. I wrestled with thoughts like, “Would they do it right?” and “I hope they don’t ruin it.” And then while I was in Nashville at the Youth Specialties conference, Interlinc showed an advance screening. I only got to see the last 15-20 minutes of the rough cut, and I have to be honest…I was not impressed.

Despite mixed reviews, I decided to take a group of my students to see the movie on opening night. I’m still pretty new at my church so I was nervous. I kept thinking if the film was cheesy or worse…if it was just plain bad, how big of a hit would it be to my creditability? As the theater went dark, I actually whispered, “Please don’t suck”.

Over the next 106 minutes, I was blown away. Yeah the movie was great, but what really resonated with me was how my students responded to the film. There were a few laughs and of course they all jumped at the shark attack scene, but there’s something else, something very unexpected…tears. Bethany’s story is so powerful; from dealing with difficulties and overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles to gaining perspective and showing compassion to others in the midst of suffering. As we walked out of the theater I was quick to ask them what they thought. Overwhelmingly…they loved it!! It’s been a few days now since we watched the movie and we are still talking about it…and my gut tells me we will talk about this one for a long time to come.

I can’t make you go and make you take your group, but I will say this…I’m going back this weekend and I’m taking some more students.

 

So… what’s your opinion of the film? (only those who have seen it, please)

 

About Jonathan McKee

president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over twenty books including the brand new If I Had a Parenting Do Over, 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; Sex Matters; The Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket; and youth ministry books like Ministry By Teenagers; Connect; and the 10-Minute Talks series. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.
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11 Responses to Another Opinion about Soul Surfer

  1. Jill says:

    I took an unbelieving friend with me on opening day of Soul Surfer. Let me tell you, the tears were flowing from our eyes! I watched her reactions to some of the mentions of Jesus and there was none, but a constant stare at the screen. Oh! how I had hoped to know what was going through her mind. I asked her if she liked it and she said, “yes”. She then proceeded to ask about how bad things can be turned out for good. We had such a wonderful conversation about how God can use every event in our life and He doesn’t waste a thing! She was completely in awe of Bethany’s reaction to what had happen with her. I said only Jesus can give us peace like that. This movie opened up doors for me to share Jesus with my friend!

  2. Lyle says:

    Why did I read this and tear up again when Matt just mentioned his kids crying?…CAUSE IT’S THAT GOOD! This movie was perfect! I hate crying at fake stuff, like Nemo…and I hate it when “based on” movies wander far from the real story…as far as I can tell this movies was right on!

    To me it’s a powerful sermon. God’s message is so clear. I guess maybe to people who are just hostel to the truth, they might find reason to mock some stuff, but most of it seemed like genuine real life Christian life to me…real life in Hawaii, that is…oh to have church on the beach! I really liked the end when they showed the real Bethany in home video and pictures doing the the exact stuff that they had portrayed in the film…like the scenes that I thought may have been artistic license were actually really part of her story.

    The only cheese in this Christian movie was on the nachos in the snack bar…I HIGHLY recommend you take your kids to it!

  3. Eric says:

    I took a group of my youth to see it this past Saturday. Many had seen some previews and thought it might be interesting and I would imagine some were expecting a low-budget cheesy Christian movie but when we walked out of the movie all of them were impressed.

    The casting was perfect. Helen Hunt and Denis Quaid were the perfect parents in the movie. The plot screamed real life with real decisions being made instantaneously on whether to sneak out or skip a mission trip to train.

    This movie hits home and is worthy of seeing. Not to mention this “tough” guy was holding back tears too.

    Go see it!

  4. Jeremy Hetzel says:

    I took my group on Saturday of opening weekend. I made it a “youth and their parents” event. We had 40 show up! Everyone who went really liked it. The next night at our regular Sunday night meeting, we talked about a lot of the great lessons you can take from the movie, gaining God’s perspective, perseverance, Gods got a plan, how to “love your enemies” and others. I’d highly recommend people seeing it.

  5. Joe says:

    I am a middle school youth pastor and got to see an advanced screening of the movie a couple months ago. I agree that it’s probably the least cheesy Christian movie that’s come out yet (not counting Passion of the Christ). I would definitely affirm taking groups to see it. However, I would be a little cautious about my younger, hormone raging boys. While I don’t think the girls are dressed skimpy in the movie, half of the scenes are teenage girls in bikinis. I think my boys might get a little distracted from the story! But, that’s just me and I’m not saying don’t take your entire groups to go see it.
    I agree that the acting is great, except for one character – Carrie Underwood. You could tell it was her first real acting gig, and I wish they would have gotten someone a little better for such a vital character. At the same time I know having a big name like her would also draw in another huge section of fans to see the movie.
    Anyway, that’s my 2 cents.

  6. Greg says:

    Joe, I’m glad you mentioned the immodest factor. I’ve been wondering about that since the trailer seems to show attractive women in bikinis all over the place.

  7. Matt Pilla says:

    Hey Source!! I’m pastor of a pretty huge youth ministry in South Jersey. For those of you that don’t know, Jersey kids can be pretty tough and critical at the first sign of cheesiness.

    We rented out a theater and took a group of 170 middle and high school students as part two of a five part all-nighter. The response was overwhelmingly positive!! They laughed, cried and cheered. They absolutely loved it. One of our students actually went the whole night with his arm tucked in his shirt in an attempt to identify with the character!

    I agree with the above gentle criticisms, but don’t let them stop you from taking your students. They’ll love it, and they’ll be moved by it.

  8. Michelle says:

    In my humble opinion: Good movie with a great message and a very small side of cheese. I took senior high students, and they really enjoyed it (more than they thought they would!).

  9. Jason Peck says:

    I took some students to see it this past Friday night and my students also loved it! It actually was a sold out movie by the time it started and I was really glad to see so many there supporting it.

    Yes, you can tell it isn’t one of the huge budget movies, but that didn’t matter. I think many students today would rather see authentic than fake and Soul Surfer provides that. I understand putting our credibility on the line when we show movies to our students, but I think we forget that God doesn’t need our budget busting movies to bring glory to Himself. The message and emotion of Bethany’s story shines through and I can’t wait to see how God uses this movie.

    BTW, be prepared to shed a few tears even if you are a tough guy.

    My advice is grab your students and go see it!

  10. Erin says:

    I just took a small group of junior and senior high girls to see the movie last night. They really liked it. I don’t think anyone made it out of the theater without at least tearing up. As a leader, I thought the film was really well done. The movie conversations felt authentic and honest and lent themselves to some great real-life faith talks one-on-one later with a couple girls. The modesty factor has come up in a few comments, and I have to say that for a movie mainly set in water they seemed to respect the modesty of those girls. Many times the girls held surfboards (covering themselves), wore the surfing shirts or coverups, or the camera angle was focused more on the girl’s faces.
    Enough of my thoughts. Go see the movie!

  11. The following review refers only to the Hollywood movie, Soul Surfer. It is not a critique of the real Bethany Hamilton, her testimony, or her ministry to others: http://yoursacredcalling.com/blog/2011/04/soul-surfer-beaches-bikinis-and%E2%80%A6bibles/