Directed by Charles Martin Smith. Starring Nathan Gamble, Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, Harry Connick Jr., Kris Kristofferson.
Yes of course it’s based on a true story. And yes it’s pretty formula. It’s something Disney would probably have made ten years ago. But now they’re trying to be all grown up of course (so Warner Bros. has taken over). Dolphin Tale is a remarkable story, undoubtedly. But its prosaic handling and the clichés hitting you like waves in the face make it seem ever so long and predictable.
A curious young female dolphin, later dubbed Winter, is washed up along the Florida coastline with an infected tail that had been caught in a fishing trawler’s crab trap. It later loses said tail and keeping it alive becomes a losing battle. But fate smiles upon the bottle-nosed dolphin in the form of a prosthetic tail that helps her swim again. Reminds me of the one-armed man in The Fugitive!
Anyway, so in the film they’ve added a boy called Sawyer (Nathan Gamble) who finds Winter and then follows the Maritime Rescue Hospital ‘family’ to see how his fishy friend is recuperating. And thus begins their joint quest to save Winter and their financially ailing clinic for Nemos!
There’s a side story too about Sawyer’s swim champ cousin Kyle (Austin Stowell) who goes off to work in the army but comes back crippled and in need of physical and mental support. Sawyer becomes the little saviour, bringing together his family, convincing a good doctor of prosthetics (Morgan Freeman) to develop an artificial tail fin for Winter and being cute enough to save the maritime hospital from closure. Surely an award-winning recipe for tears and heart-tugging.
No tears for me really. I don’t know whether they stuck to the facts too much or they just wanted it to appeal to a very young audience, but Dolphin Tale isn’t really entertaining or new. But the end bits that show real footage of her and actual amputees who were drawn to this miracle are inspiring.
The dolphin Winter of course is the real star of the film and you do get a glimpse as to why these popular ‘sea-world’ creatures are called the smartest animals in the sea. And you perhaps go home with the clichéd but certainly timeless moral that you can overcome all obstacles and nothing is impossible. Especially when you have really nice doctors willing to work for free and very big-hearted millionaires willing to give away their money to cute little boys trying to save dolphins.