Dolphin Tale (2011) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
25Sep/113

Dolphin Tale (2011)

Look, I know I can be a bit cynical, but I really don't hate dolphins and I didn't hate Dolphin Tale. Please try to remember that as you read this review.

Dolphin Tale is based on the true story of a beached Florida dolphin who lost her tail and was fitted with a new prosthetic one. I emphasize based because the film makers decided that wasn't interesting enough so they tacked-on some stuff about a sad kid overcoming adversity. The film uses Winter (the titular dolphin) as a launching point for their story of a lonely, young boy named Sawyer (Nathan Gamble) who is struggles with school and society until he happens upon a wounded dolphin and, in nursing it back the health, learns how to open up himself.

If any of this sounds familiar, it is. Dolphin Tale is extremely formulaic. If you've ever watched a made for TV family drama, you'll have most of the plot figured out before the 20 minute mark.

It's also really dull for those first 20 or so minutes as it sets up the non-dolphin plot hooks and characters. Sawyer's shyness keeps him from doing much of anything beyond staring blankly with his mouth half-open. I get they they're trying to establish him as introverted, but it's really, really boring to see. Even his 'transformation' from introvert to extrovert wasn't all that interesting or engaging as it took place within the space of a single scene transition. One moment he's got the emotional range of a mute rock and the next he's balls-to-the-wall dolphin-crazy and talking a mile a minute.

This guy likes dolphins. Codename: Flipper.

Not that it isn't welcome. Up to that point the film is all downward glances and awkward moments where you wish Sawyer would just say anything to move the plot along. As soon as he starts talking, he's a pretty upbeat guy. Actually, every character is pretty upbeat now that I think about it. Oh, sure, they've got their share of past struggles or pressing problems, but it never really seems to slow anyone down. Everyone's just so likable. Hell, even the closest thing the film gets to an antagonist is a pretty nice guy when he shows up in the last two minutes of the film.

My biggest problem with Dolphin Tale was that it just didn't feel like a kids' movie. Yeah, yeah, I know that it stars kids, but it really isn't about them at all. It's really only focuses on Sawyer until he gets dolphin-fever which instantly cures him of his insecurities. That's the end of his character development. There was a goofy pelican, and a completely needless 3-D toy helicopter sequence thrown in, but that's really about it.

It's not really about the other characters either. There's a little bit of character development with Sawyer's cousin, who has been injured in an army accident or something, and he's pretty angry about it until he meets Winter the Wonder Dolphin and instantly overcomes all hang-ups. Oh, and he gets a pep talk from Morgan Freeman, who plays, get this, a kind but slightly cantankerous old man who dispenses sage advice.

But really it's the dolphin that helps the kid. Dolphins are so cool, man.

This dolphin is totally owning us at StarCraft! They really are smarter than us!

Did I mention that dolphins are totally cool and smart and stuff? Because the film manages to remind you every couple of scenes. This film is so pro-dolphin that it makes me wonder if there's a serious anti-dolphin sentiment out there, 'edgy' tween-agers and snarky web-reviewers aside.

In the end, the film is really just about a dolphin that needs a new tail, and while that's an interesting premise, it's hard to relate to the dolphin as a character. It isn't like the dolphin grows or develops or learns a lesson about crab nets or anything. I mean, it's a dolphin! And the few human characters with emotional baggage don't really grow or develop, they just instantly get over their problems as soon as they meet the Miracle Fish.

*Yawn* Look, I already gave out all my sage advice. Can I go already?

Look, it isn't all that terrible. There's an interesting story here, and I guess there's a good message about hope or something, but for a kids film it just feels bland and boring. Winter's story would have made a better documentary, because the story of giving a dolphin a prosthetic tail is far more interesting than the feel-good story that got tacked onto it.

Posted by Jacob

Comments (3) Trackbacks (0)
  1. I honestly cannot, with any fiber of my being, give a flippity floppity flying fuck about a tail-less dolphin.

  2. That is rude. What if you FEET were gone and you couldn’t walk right!!! You GUYS are so unsympathetic!!! You always look at it from your side you would want everyone to make you some frickin cookies and milk but noooo when it is sommyhing besides you like an animal we can’t communicate with to see if they are okay you don’t care!!! You need to just shut to the up okay! Cuz if you cmt say anything meaningful you shouldn’t speak at all!!! Now that is a fact!!!!!!!

  3. Something **. & can’t **


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