Soul Surfer Sean McNamara

Soul Surfer Sean McNamara
Later on in Soul Surfer, a Christianity-heavy biopic about teen surfer Bethany Hamilton (played here by AnnaSophia Robb), who lost her left arm in a shark attack, a journalist asks her if she would change what happened on the day of the accident knowing what she knows now. Instead of giving him the finger and asking him if his umbilical cord asphyxiated him at birth, she says something to the effect of, "Losing my arm has made me who I am today. I can embrace more people now with one arm than I ever could before with two." And no one laughs.

They don't laugh because it's actually the tone of the entire film: every single moment is so calculated, sanitized and wholesome that worldly cynicism like laughing at a simple religious teenager doesn't exist. Bethany loses her arm and hangs tough in the face of obstacles, learning to make sandwiches, dress and eventually surf again with only a single teary-eyed moment, asking her church group leader, "Why would God do this to me?"

It would all seem patronizing and ridiculous, but if you actually watch interviews with the real-life Hamilton, you'll see that she too is exceedingly optimistic and God-fearing, having the sort of palate that would genuinely love this kind of simple, surprisingly touching (and, yes, ridiculously corny) story about universal love.

And aside from the weirdly intense and well-directed shark attack sequence, with panic, vomiting and an array of logical and unflattering reactions, this is the sort of uplifting tale that a family could enjoy without worry of corruption or challenging themes.

In fact, those able to invest themselves in the tale without snickering at shots of Dennis Quaid sticking a surfboard in a dead shark's mouth to see if it was "the one" might even need a Kleenex or two. (Sony)