Do me a favor, locate your local corporate coffee shop chain and nab five sugar packets. Thanks. I'd like you to go ahead and pour all those sugar packets down your throat simultaneously. Okay, so, how's that feel? Weird right? The combination of guilt because you're a dirty, dirty thief, and sweetness overload from the sugar packets, is about the same the feeling you leave “A Dolphin Tale” with.
“A Dolphin Tale” is a sugary sweet family friendly tale that isn't going to rock your world. There's no inspirational soundtrack like with "Free Willy" or an adorable puppy that does cute puppy things like in "Air Bud" or a delicious menu like any of the “Beethoven” movies. To be honest Dolphins are sorta creepy looking creatures, with beady little eyes and funky little holes in the top of their head. Ick.
13 year-old Nathan Gamble is quite good as Sawyer, an eager young boy failing his classes, still torn up inside after his father abandoned the family a few years ago. After learning his cousin is enlisting in the military (You know what they say about a military enlistment in the first act…), all hope seems lost for young Sawyer.
Thankfully a Dolphin practically kills itself on a lobster trap, washes up on the beach and forlorn and failing Sawyer happens upon the sea creature, a friendly nearby old man calls animal rescue on his cell phone, and the Dolphin is whisked away to be saved or turned into some sort of delicious soup. Eventually Sawyer finds out where they keep Winter, he sneaks in, meets a cast of marine biologists including Kris Kristofferson and Harry Connick Jr, as well as Hazel (Cozi Zuehlsdorf) who is a not quite love interest.
Meanwhile, Sawyer is having issues at home with failing classes, and Momma (Ashley Judd) is having trouble connecting with her son, but is wooed by the way of the dolphin and the community of biologists. Sadly The Dolphin (Winter) has its tail amputated, and it's a race against time, budget, and biology to save this single majestic creature from swimming itself dead. This is where Morgan Freeman comes in, in case you're wondering.
Director Charles Martin Smith gives us enough visual garnish that eases a lot of the silly dialog and interactions between characters, including runaway helicopters and a pelican with a superb comedic timing. Additionally, The underwater visuals are great, including some cool “POV” shots from the perspective of the Dolphin. Additionally several montages feature some cool 3D effects, more than likely to keep the kiddies entertained.
What he does especially well is fill us with a sense of charm right off the bat. All the characters mean well, no one is trying to scare us (Like in the beginning of Free Willy) or gross us out (Like in the beginning of Free Willy) or preach to us (Like in Free Willy). Okay that's a lie. The movie is a touch preachy, and appears to be quite in favor of homeschooling of all things. Weird.
So who would like this movie? Well, young children may get bored during the scenes not featuring the dolphin, of which there are some. Older adults are going to be rolling their eyes (with admitted begrudged fondness) all the way to the credits, and teenagers forced to go with the family are going to be real mad because Moneyball is in the theater down the hall.
But the fact this is a mostly true story makes A Dolphin Tale a truly inspirational *sigh* tale, and the real life documentary footage at the end of the movie leaves at least a superficial smile on your face.
I hesitate to call the movie quality junk food entertainment, because there is a lesson and morals to be taken from these proceedings, but almost a century of Lassies, homeward bound journeys, air buds, cats and dogs, freed Willys, and that stupid movie about the fat seal, have left my adorable inspirational animal quotient filled. We've seen this plot before, change out the animal, the calamity, and you have every animal movie ever made.
It's hard for me to personally get behind an animal inspiration story sometimes, especially when there are so many real life human beings in need of it more. Then again, Dolphin's can't sell streetwise to get themselves going again.
But just because I've been here and done this, doesn't mean you have. If you have young children that are a little more inquisitive than most, and have a passion for animals, take them to see “A Dolphin Tale” it may just inspire them in the way only a movie can. If you have an adorably sweet girlfriend or boyfriend, who enjoys laughing at corny movies and cooing at cute animals, take them to see a Dolphin tale. If you are an adorably sweet lady who enjoys laughing at corny movies and cooing at cute animals. Call me immediately.
Just don't be surprised if all that candy you buy at the box office appears sour compared to the pure sugarcane on screen.