Sunday, September 2, 2012

Dolphin Tale - Movie Review

The dolphin that this particular tale is all about is Winter, and she was originally rescued in December of 2006.  The theatrical version of this story was released as Dolphin Tale in September 2011, and I was in absolutely no mood to see it - ever.  Why? Because I had been "Free Willy"-ed about, what, 6 times now?  The first of that series was inspirational and captured my attention fully; I even purchased the sound track with my allowance money.  But just like anything that really attracts my attention, it also prompted me to start digging.  The more I learned about the history of killer whales and other marine mammals in captivity, the frustrations with regulations in the U.S. over the years, and the tragic circumstances still happening in other parts of the world (see The Cove post in this blog's archives: 6/20/10), the more I became personally jaded with the storyline.

So, I steered clear of this movie for fear of wasting precious hours only to be disappointed until a colleague - perhaps the most cynical friend I have, to be quite honest - walked in one morning stating she had watched a surprisingly good movie.  Yup, Dolphin Tale.  Once the initial shock wore off, I set out to watch this film and decide for myself.  Between the boundless energy of my 3 year old, the rotating schedule of my firefighter husband, and oh yeah, FOOTBALL!, it took me 3 days to watch this movie in its entirety.  Considering I had previously decided this film was going to be a total waste, it speaks very highly of this story and its characters as to my determination to finish it.  I was genuinely engrossed and couldn't wait for my son to take a nap so I could continue watching with my full attention.  I already knew the basic story of Winter, so that also meant I knew how it ended before even watching the movie trailers.  It takes an exceptional cast and perfect storyline execution to keep a skeptic entranced when there is no surprise element to be had!

~~~~1/2 waves (out of 5)

This, like Soul Surfer is a feel good movie rooted in reality, giving the film even more depth and credibility.  Since the main character (besides Winter the dolphin) is an 11 year old boy, it is perfect for kids too.  As a parent, I enjoyed the extra love given by Ashely Judd to her role as Sawyer's mother, Lorraine. At one point in the movie she is arguing with her son's summer school teacher:
"I am witnessing something a mother, and a teacher, dreams of seeing - a turned-on kid"
Remember when something excited you to the point that it became an obsession, even for a little while?  I was insane and all about "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" for years as a kid.  I can admit that now, because retro is in, and they have made a comeback along with my Strawberry Shortcake doll.  But seriously, let me know if you see Popples anywhere so I can open those old boxes in the attic without shame!

If you are in to watch this movie, but don't know the story and don't want to know... then stop right here and come back after finishing the flick for yourself.  If you want to get the complete scoop, here comes the SPOILER ALERT!!

Dolphin Tale sports an all star cast: Morgan Freeman, Ashely Judd, Harry Connick, Jr. (even his actual daughter makes a special appearance), Kris Kristoferrson, and two great child actors in Nathan Gamble (Marley and Me, The Mist, Dark Knight) and brand new Cozi Zuehlsdorff (you will definitely see more of this girl in the future).  The dolphin in the movie is actually Winter too, prosthetic tail and all.

This film is available in 3D, and if you are part of the general population probably do not have a 3D television at home.  Don't worry, it is not so full of special multi-dimensional effects that it becomes distracting to watch at home or on the computer.  According to the Internet Movie Data Base ( ) this movie garners only a 6.7 out of 10 rating.  Similar to Soul Surfer, I think this in mainly due to misguided expectations going in; know you are sitting down to watch a feel good movie and just enjoy it!  Ebert gets annoyed at the anthropomorphizing of Winter and Sawyer's friendship.  Let me rebuttal with a photo taken of my son at age 2 while visiting Sea World in Orlando.
Kissing a dolphin through the glass at Sea World
Complete strangers started taking pictures and the docent stationed there to talk about dolphins was speechless.  So there.  Their interactions went on for about 3 minutes until the dolphin feeding/talk began and all of them disappeared back to the surface.  He was not the only kid down there, and the baby dolphin and Jace were the only two different species interacting at all.

Back to the film...
Feel free to be inspired by the truth behind the film, and then realize that you can go online and see Winter for yourself, or visit her at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium on the west coast of Florida.
The rescue and rehabilitation steps taken in the film are very real from the crab trap to the special sock, and the work with Winter's prosthetic tail has led to progression in human applications as well.

Of course not every scene and character in the movie is real. Hey, it is still a movie and therefore has an underlying duty to be entertaining.  One downer, "Rufus" isn't real... but I have been to enough zoos and aquariums to know that animals like him are definitely based on reality.  Unfortunately, the children depicted in this movie are not real, either; but before that completely destroys your opinion of the movie understand that kids are involved in animal rescues all the time. They drag their respective grownups back into facilities to visit the injured animals they helped to save and often gain an experience that influences their behavior toward animals and the environment for the rest of their lives.  Nothing impacts a person's outlook like personal interaction and experience.

Winter was originally rescued by the amazing team at the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute. This same organization is still at work, and literally saved 5 stranded pilot whales just this past weekend too:
To folow the general progress of that story, check out:

To learn more about strandings and working as a volunteer with injured marine wildlife, go back to my archives (May 2011) for details and perspective from my personal experience.

If you are looking for a positive distraction amongst the mud slinging in the political press and just want to shut off that part of your brain for a little less than 2 hours, I highly recommend this film.

I'm gonna go watch more of Winter online now. Hm, a field trip across Florida might be in order!
-Callie Sharkey

1 comment:

Jimmy Jarred said...

Inspiring movie. This film inspires in so many ways. Its a perfect family movie that you all will love to watch.
Watch Dolphin Tale Online