Flipper may be the biggest dolphin movie star of all time but he’s not the only dolphin in Hollywood’s great big sea. Winter, star of “Dolphin Tale” and its new sequel, is a close second.
Winter is an injured bottleneck dolphin rescued off the Florida coast who was taken in by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Florida. He lost his tail to infection but a VA prosthetic designer, an Iraqi war vet and the caregivers at her new home were determined to put a new end on this tale. She now swims with the aid of a silicone and plastic tail, and is the star attraction at the aquarium and the subject of two movies.
The new film sees Sawyer (Nathan Gamble, who has perfected the “concerned face” method of acting) and Hazel (Cozi Zuehlsdorff), the two dolphin loving kids from the first film, come back for more rousing sea mammal action. This time out they and the good folks at the Clearwater Marine Hospital (including Harry Connick Jr. and Kris Kristofferson), search for a companion for the lonely dolphin when Winter’s old partner passes away. Also making return visits are Ashley Judd as Sawyer’s mom, Morgan Freeman as Dr. Cameron McCarthy the designer of Winter’s prosthetic tail and Rufus the Emotional Pelican.
Like the first film “Dolphin’s Tale 2” is a wholesome family movie for the entire clan. Messages about dealing with grief and loss are woven into the story, but the film is more about uplift and inspiration.
Sometimes too much so.
For instance, Connick Jr. officially plays the biologist who runs the aquarium but, in reality, is a living embodiment of Father Knows Best. He always seems to know exactly the right thing to say and do which gives the film the feel of a 1950s family drama. Reaching hand over fist for emotional moments, “Dolphin Tale 2” relies a bit too heavily on inspirational children’s movie clichés—any movie that features Bethany Hamilton romping with dolphins is unafraid of embracing its redemptive soul—but does so without an ounce of cynicism.
The two F’s are front and center—family and friends—along with lessons in determination and fighting for what you believe in. Good stuff all round, if a little ham-fisted in its presentation.
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.