My Mistake- 4 Soul Surfer Myths Debunked

I have to apologize about Soul Surfer.

This is actually an unusual apology. Usually when I’m apologizing about Christian films, I’m apologizing for how lame they are (sorry, just keeping it real). With Soul Surfer, that’s the furthest from the truth. I finally saw the film this past weekend with my family, and we all were completely blow away. It was not only truly inspiring, it was just a well done film. Wow.

I have to apologize, because it took me a few weeks to get this review to you. I was invited to a screening before the release, but couldn’t attend. I sent one of my other guys– a great writer and friend. He thought the film was okay, but a little cheesy. After posting his review, I took some heat.

My mistake was not dropping everything and going to see the film for myself on the day of the release. A film like this can be a really important tool for Christian youth workers and parents and the entire Christian community. I should have jumped in and provided my own opinion on the matter (after all, we’re all entitled to our opinions, and they differ).

On April 13th I posted a more positive opinion of the film from Todd Pearage, my main movie review guy. He loved the film and thought it was a great movie to bring kids to.

Todd wasn’t alone. The film is still in the top 10 at the box office (#7 this past weekend, only beat out by newer releases) and has more than made its money back. Let me tell you, audiences vote with their wallets, and they’re still voting “yes” in regards to Soul Surfer.

So finally, this past weekend, I grabbed my family and said, “Let’s go see this film.”

I’ll be honest. My kids weren’t that excited to go see it. My 17-year-old son even asked, “Do we have to?”

2 hours later, we were amazed. My whole family thoroughly enjoyed it. None of us regretted seeing it. Truly, a pleasant surprise.

Let me address a few myths about this film- opinions you shouldn’t believe:

MYTH 1: “It’s cheesy.” Sorry, don’t believe the hype. Soul Surfer isn’t anything close to cheesy. The producers actually paid for great talent and used an experienced director that did the film justice. More about that in my review of the film that I just posted today.

MYTH 2: “Lame effects.” I had heard that some of the digital effects looked fake. What effects? Honestly. I was looking out for bad effects, some of the ones my friend Matt Furby had mentioned (AnnaSophia Robb’s face digitally added to another surfer’s body), and I didn’t see anything noticeable. You want to see a bad digital effect of that type, go to one of the greatest digital effects films of the last 20 years, Titanic and look at Kate Winslet’s face as she’s running down the hallway of the ship flooded with water. That was a bad superimposed effect (and I still loved the movie). I didn’t see any effects even close to as bad as that in Soul Surfer.

MYTH 3: “Bad acting.” Nope. Not this film. The lead roles were all played by seasoned actors, and the bit parts were quality as well. Some of the guy surfers talked a little bit robotic… but I asked my kids if they thought those guys were bad actors, and they said, “Dad, they’re surfers. They sound like that!”

MYTH 4: “Gratuitous Bikini Shots.” Sorry. I’ve read numerous blogs and opinions talking about how inappropriate it was to show these girls in bikinis. First, consider the source. That being said, listen to my opinion. The film was very tasteful. Yes, there were bikinis. Yes, Bethany wears bikinis in real life. But the shots were tasteful. Hollywood has provided plenty of films with mere “eye-candy” as a selling point. For example, the surfing movie Blue Crush, a film full of “eye-candy” and sexual situations (I actually refer to that movie in this youth ministry programming article, “How to Make Your Movie Night Flop“). Soul Surfer is miles from this. And realize, my opinion is that of a father of two teenage daughters. I don’t let them wear two-piece swimsuits at school, at youth group, around any other teenage crowds. I do let them wear them with their other girl friends at my parents’ pool (when no guys are around to gawk). I’m also the guy who writes articles about the sexualization of young girls and how our society is over-sexualized. Soul Surfer isn’t even close.

So let me go on the record. Soul Surfer was amazing. If you haven’t seen it– do. It’s so worth it. That’s probably why it’s making more than its money back in the box office (which speaks loudly for a Christian film). I’m going to be buying this film when it’s released on BluRay.

Check out my detailed review of the film on our MOVIE REVIEWS & QUICK Q’s page HERE!

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.
[Are you getting this daily blog in your email inbox?] If not, it's real easy-go here.
This entry was posted in Entertainment Media, Jonathan's Rant, Movies. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to My Mistake- 4 Soul Surfer Myths Debunked

  1. Linda says:

    i agree with your review wholeheartedly! i found this movie instead inspires & potentially motivates. Shows something about making your own choices, faith in God instead of in ourselves and family’s that love and support one another and what that can do for a person. to name some….. Thought this was well done and definitely up for mainstream.

  2. David says:

    I am also thankful there was not a “Christian” moment in the film. It’s those moments when the person you’ve invited to see a film, who doesn’t go to church or have the faith you do, realizes “This is why you brought me!” It was well done and leaves room for an actual conversation with people about faith without forcing it. There are just some movies you can’t suggest to watch with friends because of the blatant message. But I can see my friends wanting to see the movie and not get offended or turned off.

  3. That’s an interesting thought David. I think I agree with you. Although I wrestled with that concept as well in TO SAVE A LIFE. That film did the same thing and my buddy Greg Stier (who always challenges me to share my faith- he’s awesome) said that he wished the film would have shared the Gospel. I didn’t know if I agreed with him. Sometimes I think I’m looking for a film that opens the door for ME to share, rather than doing all the sharing. I guess Greg would probably reply, “But most people DON’T share when the door is opened!” Ouch! So maybe the answer is… SOUL SURFER and TO SAVE A LIFE do a great job IF you are willing to take the next step!

    Anyone else want to chime in on that?

  4. Andy says:

    I really wish that Soul Surfer and To Save A Life had shared the Gospel more. They are both great movies and wonderful conversation starters about faith and such but what is it that really makes them “Christian” films? Is it decent content, a good redemptive story line, people going to church? While I am not putting down these films it would be nice to see at least a simple “Jesus died for us so that we can receive eternal life if we place our faith in Him alone!” That is after all what it means to be a Christian, the Gospel.

  5. Roger says:

    I too, loved the movie! For me, I thought the movie was a perfect mix of day-to-day living in the world but not of the world. Christianity, in my understanding is living the life of Christ so much so that when someone asks why we are doing the things we do we then have the open door to share the “good news” without it being forced.

  6. Jon says:

    I liked that it didn’t offer any easy answers. It was a film where Bethany used her faith to struggle through what has happening in her life. But never once did her youth pastor or family tell her just to pray, read her Bible more, go to church, or one of those other answers we like to throw out as the be-all-end-all answers that will solve all of our problems.

    It wasn’t the best film that I’ve ever seen, but it was good and not nearly as “cheesy” at it could have been. It’s something I’m glad I took some of our youth group members to see.

  7. Jesse says:

    I think I am in agreement with Jonathan and David..There’s a fine line but as the Bible says, “the preaching of the cross is foolishness…” So, for many unsaved who see it, they might be all into it until that moment where the Gospel is shared and they think that that moment is cheesy, scripted, and just part of a religious movement. I would say the mistake we (Christians) make is thinking that because a movie features itself in Hollywood that the unchurched will flock to it and think Christianity is cool and then surrender to the Lord by default. But, the real impact really does come from relationships for the most part and Christian friends who are willing to spark the tough conversations through an opening like this movie. However, I’m not saying that it can’t work. Just like tracts. They’ve got like a 1% chance of actually being read and truly being used to take a person to knowing God in themselves, but they have gotten the job done in some cases..I guess I’m either way. If it shares the Gospel then great, but it doesn’t bother me that they don’t. And I think people are clearly going to see a difference in this movie than other Hollywood movies that will separate it as a “Christian” film.

  8. Greg Stier says:

    Of course I thought Soul Surfer should have given the gospel. And so should have To Save a Life and Braveheart and Grand Torino and Men in Black and The Passion of the Christ (wait! I think that one did!) I’m the Dare 2 Share guy, I think EVERY movie should give the gospel! 🙂

    On a serious note, I think Soul Surfer (as well as TSAL) do a great job of opening the door to a gospel-conversation…if students are willing to walk through the door. By the way, Soul Surfer has an excellent evangelistic website called http://www.soulsurfer.com and over 10,000 have indicated faith in Christ as a result of going to it…so that’s pretty cool.

    Oh yeah, and I thought ET should have given the gospel as well.

  9. Ha… I knew I could count on you Greg!

  10. Stephen Zachary (Chaplain USN) says:

    My 2 pence worth…
    First and very quickly, I’d like to say that Jonathan’s assessment of what some supposed experts (Rotten Tomatos etc. ) are saying is spot on! Good on ya mate! 🙂
    Secondly,
    I have no doubt that when this movie is accessable on the open market that it will rival the most recent gospel/faith based movies of our day with no problem. But the reason I say that is that out of all the one’s have come out, this one isn’t made up, it really happened and people can connect to that so much easier. I’m praying now that when this movie comes out that I will have been diligent enough to have prepared at least an outline of devotional thoughts to use when I show this movie to Sailors and Marines.
    To Him be the glory and dominion forever.
    -laterz-

  11. That’s a great point Stephen. I think the fact that this film is based on a true story… it brings authenticity to it. (and audiences get to see that in the clips of the real Bethany shown during the closing credits of the film)

  12. Joe says:

    I must disagree that simply because the half naked girls on the beach was not a gratuitous effort makes it OK. Women dressed in such a fashion cause our boys and young men to stumble with adultry. Please remember that in Matthew, Jesus says that adultry is not just physical but lust itself.
    Also, it is a shame that the extremely poor parenting portrayed is never addressed. This girl, lies to her parents and sneaks around behind their backs and it is just, ok.
    On top of it all, the cast is full of God hating liberals who will now benefit from our patronage.
    In all, I think this movie is a wolf in sheeps clothing when it is recommended for Christian youth groups.

  13. Wow! I don’t think I even want to respond to that.

  14. Noah says:

    @Joe, those are some strong thoughts. I’m just curious if there is a film that is comparable to Soul Surfer that was done better, is it just the bathing suits and sneaking out. All kids lie, steal, and cheat. But yes as parents we should discipline them. But also you only have so much screen time. Please remember that Soul Surfer is a step in the right direction towards getting Hollywood on track to bring faith to the screen. Soul Surfer will open up many doors.

  15. Michael says:

    I agree that this movie strikes a great balance between entertainment & creating the opening for sharing the Gospel. It’s time for us lazy Christians to stop waiting on Hollywood to produce a movie to lead people to Christ & use opportunities like this one to do what Christ commanded us to do…take the message of Christ to the world. We have been much better equipped (or we should be) to share Christ one on one with those having questions after seeing the movie that Hollywood would ever be in 2hours in a dark theater. We just have to learn to get out of our zones of complacency and learn to live the love that Christ did.