There’s been boy-and-his-dog movies before and earlier this year James Franco starred in a-boy-and-his-chimp movie but not since “Flipper” has there been a boy-and-his-dolphin story on the big screen. “Dolphin Tale,” a new movie based on the real life relationship between a lonely boy and an injured bottlenose dolphin, is an aquatic love story for kids.
Inspired by the true story of a dolphin named Winter rescued off the Florida coast, the movie stars Nathan Gamble as Sawyer as a young boy who finds the injured dolphin stranded on a beach. Taken in by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium the fish loses his tail to infection but a VA prosthetic designer, an Iraqi war vet and some very determined kids are determined to put a new end on this tale. By the time the kids start praying to their dead parents for help, literally no stone, natural or supernatural has been left unturned in seeking help for this dolphin
Despite its PG rating “Dolphin Tale” is gently paced family entertainment. Feeling like old school live action Disney, it wears its heart on its sleeve as well as a rubber tail on its main character. It sometimes stretches a bit too far in search of a big moment, but without a cynical bone in its body it never seems too cloying.
Director Charles Martin Smith blends in several story threads guaranteed to pluck at the heart strings. There’s precocious performances from the kids, a cousin who comes back from Iraq with an injury and, of course, the brave and plucky dolphin. It’s old fashioned in its enthusiasm and heartfelt in its tone, which might not appeal to kids who demand the thrills of recent kid’s entertainment, but with its messages about cooperation, loyalty and rights and respect for disabled, it wholesome entertainment.