"Walking on Water" is a short supposed documentary that starts out innocently enough. Bryan Jennings recalls a summer when he was much younger, where a professional surfer took him and a friend on a surfing trip that had a huge impact on his life. Wanting to repay the favor to the upcoming generation of young surfers, he arranges to take to young kids, Luke Davis and Tyler Hallen, on a global trek to surf the beaches of numerous countries and show these kids what the world has to offer. It's a syrupy but initially earnest sentiment that eases viewers into the film, but might make them a bit apprehensive when 20-minutes go by and not a lot of surfing is going on.
At around the 20-minute mark, "Walking on Water" reveals its true intent. It's not really a story about two kids getting to go on a surfing trip. No, it's a really a cleverly disguised advertisement for Christianity. I have zero issue with Christianity or any other religion and feel truly happy for those whose faith fills them with joy and happiness. I'll even say I have no problem with Christians wanting to share this message on film. However, to have subjects of a documentary stop to film scenes where they give impoverished Peruvians the shirts off their back and then stiffly deliver a testimonial for God and faith on camera is a bait-and-switch that no one deserves.
The remaining 50-minutes awkwardly fumble along the line of travelogue and Christian testimonial. In the film's defense it does deliver the initial promise and advertisement of two kids living out their dream and learning along the way, but just as things get back on track, someone shows up on camera to beat the audience over the head with a message of God and his love. As a surfing documentary "Walking on Water" fails terribly, doing nothing more than showing some marginal visually pleasing surfing footage. As a testimony for Christianity it also fails, due in no short order to the stiff delivery by everyone interviewed. To make a comparison, I would liken it to an episode of "American Chopper" where one of the guys sits down to talk about what's going on, but the entire exchange of dialogue/information sounds like someone else wrote it. I humbly apologize to anyone involved in the film, but your message would be more easily accepted if it didn't sound pre-rehearsed, and instead came off-the-cuff and from the heart.
There's not much more to say about "Walking on Water." The majority of my disappointment doesn't come so much from the film itself, but more the way it's marketed. Sony makes it look like a surfing movie, advertising appearances by numerous pro surfers. There are only two references to the word faith on the packaging, which are incredibly vague. If it had been billed as the testimony to Christianity that it largely is, my words would be kinder, or even more, I'd have never sought the movie out. At best the film is mildly inspiring, with a segment featuring Bethany Hamilton, a surfer who lost her arm in a shark attack at age 13 feeling the most genuine. At it's worst it's corny and reeks of careful staging, an attribute that should never be attached to an objective documentary.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, is a tad above average. Some shots are full of digital noise and feature, pale washed out colors. Other scenes have a hotter than normal color palette, while detail is consistently middle of the road. What little broad appeal, namely the surfing footage and nature footage is kneecapped by a ho-hum transfer.
The English stereo audio track is acceptable with no distortion, but little life. Music is clumsily crammed over footage and interviews and balancing varies from solid to shaky. English French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, and Thai subtitles are included as well as English subtitles for the hearing impaired.
The extras consist of "The Hamilton Family: A Soul Surfer Journey," a brief featurette focusing on Bethany Hamilton and the movie being made about her life. "Bethany Hamilton and Friends in Indonesia" is another featurette focusing on Hamilton. Rounding things out is the film's original trailer, an advertisement for Walking on Water surf camps, and an advertisement for a Christian surfers group.
Poorly marketed, sloppily executed, and often disingenuous feeling, "Walking on Water," fails as a surfing documentary and almost completely as a testimony to the Christian faith. I was initially tempted to hand the documentary a rare zero-out-of-five rating, because at times it felt more like a commercial for God and not a documentary. However, there is honesty in the movie and a story does get told, albeit poorly. At the end of the day, "Walking on Water" meets the criteria for being a film, but is still a terrible one. Skip It.