Dolphin Tale

19 Oct

Title: Dolphin Tale
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Charles Martin Smith
Writers: Karen Janszen and Noam Dromi
Starring: 
Harry Connick Jr., Nathan Gamble, Ashley Judd, Kris Kristofferson, Morgan Freeman, Jim Fitzpatrick, Cozi Zuehlsdorff
MPAA Rating: 
PG, some mild thematic elements
Runtime: 
113 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
5.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 
83%

I’m not the target audience for a film like Dolphin Tale, I know that much, I don’t really love these kinds of films that are advertised as sweet-hearted family events because they always tend to be an overkill of saccharine and I can’t deal with that amount of corniness. And yet this film was actually quite alright, I mean it obviously still had all of those schmaltzy elements that I really dislike, but those are pretty much a necessity for these kind of “earnest” family films, but at least this one kept it as dialed down as possible many times, and the result from that was that it found a nice way to tell its story and ended up being a sweet enough film that while I didn’t necessarily love I did found to be much better than what I had originally been expecting, and certainly a solid option if you’re part of its target demo of families that love themselves a feel-good movie about a boy who helps save a dolphin who will obviously end up teaching the kid something about himself in the process.

The kid in this film is Sawyer Nelson, a loner kind of youngster, who was left by father years ago without much of an explanation and whose mother tries her best but it still isn’t enough many times. He spends his time on videogames and building models in a workshop, just going by his existence avoiding pretty much any interaction with other people. This is your typical sort of set-up for these kind of shamelessly heart-tugging flicks, as you then see Sawyer one day going home from grade school and seeing a dolphin on the beach, trapped in a lobster-catching device thing, he develops a bond with the animal until the rescue team from an animal hospital arrives but he can’t stop thinking about the dolphin, so of course he’ll then skip school and sneak into the hospital and befriend Hazel, the son of the owner.

This film isn’t for me, I won’t stop saying that because maybe if it was I would be more recommending about it and would give it a better grade, but I do recognize that it tells a rather interesting story, it’s not particularly well-crafted, but none of these films are, and at least this one shows some kind of narrative promise to it as it goes to tell the story of Winter the dolphin and how he overcame the adversities posed to him by us humans. And of course it’ll be Winter that will teach Sawyer how to leave the isolated shell he had been living in, at first the kid’s incredibly shy but the people helping the dolphin encourage him to participate, to help out, and soon he’s interacting with them and being a part of something. By now Winter is living in a pool, and the people surrounding him doing their best to help him be able to keep swimming after an infection forces them to cut off his tail, but a prosthetics specialist played by Morgan Freeman then comes on board to save the day, because that’s just what Mr. Freeman always does.

Now, if you’re not seeing what’s so interesting about this film considering most of these kinds of films go something like this, I’ll tell you that it just so happens that this story is based on fact and, and this is the interesting bit, Winter was the actual dolphin that it all happened to, and as we see her and her new tail, it really is pretty neat to have her be the actual one in the film. And kids will eat this up, I mean, it’s been nearly a couple decades since Free Willy and Flipper came along so it’s time nature-loving kids had a new water-living friend to love in the theaters, and what’s best about Dolphin Tale in its representation of the relationship between Sawyer and Winter is that it deviates from the corny area that those films embarked on, because the interactions between boy and animal are kept somewhat realistic and the film doesn’t ask as to believe that they have formed some sort of telepathic bond that allows them to communicate effectively or whatever. Like I said, this film is still certainly very schmaltzy, but it keeps the saccharine more limited than most of its kind.

There are more subplots here, some of which are just too high stakes for their own good and end up doing the film more harm than good, because Dolphin Tale is at its best when its more relaxed and grounded when it takes it easy and low-pressure, the cast all giving it a nice and easy-going vibe that makes it work. But this is a feel-good film, of course, so you’ll leave the theater with a smile on your face, and the story about Sawyer’s mom and Hazel’s dad, two single parents raising a family, and the one about Hazel’s grandfather played by Kris Kristofferson, and one about Sawyer’s cousin who returns from Iraq with bad leg injuries who will also have to learn to swim again only add up to the lessons you are to take away from the main plot line between Sawyer and Winter. Again, these earnest family movies are not for me at all, so I’m not the perfect guy to tell you just how great or not Dolphin Tale is, but if they were for me, my guess is that this one would be one I would really dig, so take that for what it’s worth.

Grade: B-

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