In case you weren't aware, "Soul Surfer" is a faith-filled movie about surfing champion, Bethany Hamilton, who lost her arm in a 2003 shark attack. It must be good because movie reviewers are singing its praises (even if somewhat grudgingly), as is the viewing public.
No one actually walks on water during the fact-based sports drama "Soul Surfer," but the Christian signifiers arrive with the regularity of waves slamming against the Hawaiian shoreline. It was there, in 2003, that up-and-coming teen surfer Bethany Hamilton lost an arm in a shark attack, and not only recovered but went on to surf competitively again. It's a great story, one told with a great deal of polish and passion by director Sean McNamara, adapted from Ms. Hamilton's memoir (co-written with Sheryl Berk and Rich Bundschuh). The movie is bright, blue and buoyant. And it has a religious agenda as wide as the ocean.
Which does not, of course, make "Soul Surfer" a bad movie. Far from it. Even if you instinctively resist the kind of subtle proselytizing that goes on throughout the film—the prayers, the hymns, the Bibles, the implied heavenly guidance, the prominent placement of the evangelical organization World Vision—its bubbling optimism and spectacular scenery are hard not to like. But "Soul Surfer" is also part of a growing movement dedicated to making and distributing Christian films in the mainstream, films that don't advertise their spirituality but carry a very distinct religious message nonetheless. And once your antennae are up, of course, everything becomes symbolic.
It opened strong, and was the 4th best grossing film last weekend. The movie stars Carrie Underwood, Helen Hunt and Dennis Quaid. Could it be that Hollywood is waking up to the power of faith, at least at the box office, and wants business to fly on its wings?