In the interest of full disclosure and maintaining my journalistic
integrity (stop laughing), I must reveal Warner Brothers (the studio
behind Dolphin Tale)
served me, and the entire crowd at the movie when I saw it, the most
DELICIOUS cookies I have ever eaten! It didn't effect this review, but
it did put me in a good mood. Well played Warner Brothers. Well played.
by the true story,
Nathan Gamble stars as Sawyer - a young boy in Clearwater, FL who has
to attend summer school because he is more interested in focusing on
his projects and insular word instead of applying his abilities and
intelligence to school work. It is a horrible development in a series
of horrible developments as the kid also has watched his beloved
cousin, Kyle (Austin Stowell), go off to the Middle East after joining
the military to pay for his Olympic swim team training (Which is just
ridiculous. A championship swimmer can get a FAT scholarship to a big
time swim school like Stanford or UCLA, but I digress).
While riding his bike to school one day, Sawyer comes across a
fisherman who has found a young, injured dolphin. The kid does what he
can to help, aides with the rescue, and later wanders over to the
marine life sanctuary where he finds the dolphin, Winter (played by
Winter herself), is facing a battle with life or death that turns for
the worse when Dr. Clay Haskett (Harry Connick, Jr.) discovers her tail
is too injured and the way she is swimming will cause major medical
When Winter's tail is amputated for her own good, how will this
fighting dolphin survive?
Director Charles Martin Smith (Terry "The Toad" Fields in American
Graffiti) saves Dolphin
Tale from becoming a maudlin
affair with more sappiness than a Vermont forest during maple syrup
season. Every time the movie starts to move towards becoming a parody
of itself and the people in it, Smith knows to pull back.
Morgan Freeman, as Dr. McCarthy, gives us all of the usual Morgan
Freeman lovable bombast, acerbic reactions and all around cool, but
Smith presents it in the right doses. We smile and welcome Freeman,
instead of rolling our eyes because he makes only a few, well placed
appearances in the movie. It's a great example of loving something in
small doses that would be overkill and a big turn off in larger doses
(I try to use the same tactic on dates and job interviews).
Smith also presents the story of the war vet and local hero who has
returned home to face the rebuilding of his life and training how to
cope with his injuries (along with how Winter might inspire him), but
makes it a small part of the story, so it adds flavor in a hint of a
taste, instead of dominating and taking the story off in another
direction. It's a predictable sub-plot, but one we can appreciate.
Ultimately, Dolphin Tale
is about the dolphin and the kids. Gamble does a great job playing a
kid. He has the right amounts of skepticism, wonder, belief and shyness
that makes you feel like he is a real kid, instead of playing an
idealized version of one for the movie. Meanwhile, Smith should have
had a talk with Cozi Zuehlsdorff, who plays Hazel - Dr. Haskett's
daughter who becomes Sawyer's pal. Overly precocious is the phrase that
comes to mind, although annoyingly precocious also applies at times.
is not a movie for the youngest of kids, who might be excited to see
the cute dolphin. There is an open discussion about putting down Winter
for her own good, which could bring up memories of Old Yeller
parents, and I was disappointed how writers Karen Janszen and Noam
Dromi portrayed Sawyer's summer school teacher as a villain. Given the
facts of what we see in the movie, he's actually being very fair, but
becomes a bogeyman for Sawyer's Mom (Ashley Judd) to denigrate.
I have no reasonable, artistic justification why Dolphin
Tale would be presented in 3D
(which is my nice way of saying Warner Brothers is just jacking you and
your wallet by tossing in a couple 3D scenes to charge a higher ticket
price if you get suckered into it), so go 2D and spend the extra cash
on some popcorn, or those awesome cookies (if you can find them).
Tale is rated PG for some mild thematic elements