Dolphin Tale
“Dolphin Tale” is one of those “family films” that you know are going to feature good-looking children, beleaguered parents, a little bit of stress, and the triumph of love and acceptance. So what’s wrong with that? Nothing. It’s just that it rarely brings surprises.
But “Dolphin Tale” is the kind of kid’s movie where there’s plenty of interest for the adults who bring them, in part because it’s based on a true story, and besides, who doesn’t want to save the injured dolphins?
This particular rescue is of a beached dolphin dubbed Winter, who somehow got enmeshed in a crab fisherman’s net, and winds up struggling on the shore in Clearwater , Florida . An amateur beach fisherman spots her, and calls for help from a young boy who happened to be riding by on his bicycle.
Veteran child actor Nathan Gamble plays Sawyer, the boy who’s not doing well in school. His Dad has left home, his Mom (Ashley Judd) is stressed and distracted, and his real role model is his cousin, Kyle (Austin Stowell), a competitive swimmer who has joined the Army out of pure patriotism.
Sawyer is fascinated when the Dolphin Rescue team comes, and carefully places Winter on a stretcher and delivers her to their recovery and rehab facility to try to revive, restore, and release her back into the ocean. But it’s not that simple. The infection has so covered her tail fin that it has to be amputated, and now she’s not able to swim normally. She seems lethargic and listless, like she’s depressed. But she manages to perk up when Sawyer is around, presumably because she gives him credit for discovering her awash on the seashore.
Suddenly our formerly-truant Sawyer has a purpose. He throws himself into the work at the specialized aquarium, which just happens to be headed up by a single Dad with a daughter his age. Yes, yes, we’re supposed to play matchup here, but fortunately that’s underplayed. We won’t be making another Brady Bunch just yet. Instead, we focus on the very interesting process of trying to encourage Winter to accept a prosthesis, crafted by the eminent Dr. Cameron McCarthy (Morgan Freeman). We’ve met him because Kyle has returned from the War not only damaged physically, but emotionally, as well. What we’re not prepared for is the way Winter seems to respond to humans that suffer disabilities, as if this brings encouragement to her, not to mention her human counterparts.
Since the rescue operation is in financial trouble, as well, Sawyer helps organize a fund-raiser that features online advertising, and people show up because it’s such a winsome story. And during the credits at the end they show video footage of the “real” Winter and his handlers, and if that doesn’t warm the cockles of your heart, well, your cockles have become pretty frigid.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Interim Pastor, St. Stephens Presbyterian Church, Irving , Texas