- Vancouver, British Columbia - It seems that we have a new case here of The Little Movie That Could. Dolphin Tale hit theatres a couple of weeks ago and over performed at the box office. On its first weekend, it opened up at the #3 spot earning $19.2 million at the box office, and for its second weekend, it hit the #1 spot with a very low drop, going down to $14.2 million in the United States. Not bad for a family movie with hardly any name actors in it at all. Yes, there is Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd, but they only play supporting characters as the stars of the show are the two children and, of course, the dolphin. Though, perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself.
Dolphin Tale follows Sawyer Nelson (Nathan Gamble) as he stumbles across a dolphin washed up on the beach. Trapped in a crab trap, the dolphin lost a lot of circulation to her tail. She gets moved to an aquatic animal hospital where Sawyer befriends Hazel Haskett (Cozi Zuehlsdorff) whose father runs the facility. The dolphin, now named Winter, sadly loses her tail and cannot swim without it. If she cannot swim, she cannot survive so the team must find a solution to save her life. It's a little bit like Free Willy, in that it's a story about a boy who befriends an aquatic mammal, only it's not an environmentalist save-the-whales propaganda film.
Based off of the true story of Winter the dolphin, Dolphin Tale is one of those human spirit, never lose hope, inspirational films that some people eat up and walk away from with a warm heart. Golly shucks, it's just so cute, how can you say no? They even bring in Winter to play herself. I hear she was payed in anchovies. That's a lie, I made that up. But she should have been.
I don't know though... I watched this movie for the sole purpose of giving it a review, but I just don't have that much to say about it. I just can't dig up much enthusiasm for it, no matter what the old ladies at the theatre tell me. It basically is a good enough movie for some very specific demographics, and I have admit that the 20-something crowd is not really one of them. Families and old ladies are walking away pleased as punch.
I have a few issues. On a technical level, the film is unimpressive. It looks and feels like an after school special. Adding the 3D aspect (though I saw it in 2D) can't really add to the production value. It looks cheap and I'm not sure how that is specifically. I just sort of see it that way. It's not particularly well written. Some lines feel artificial and much of the humour comes across as very contrived, pandering to children, but coming across as shallow.
Many of the actors don't seem to be trying too hard. Harry Connick Jr., who I'm not very familiar with, plays Dr. Clay Haskett. His performance is so dry and uninspired. His face rarely emotes, as he gives the same blank, half-puzzled expression that's on the poster. Kris Kristofferson just plays a grandfather. Ashley Judd just plays a mom. And Morgan Freeman... well, he does what Morgan Freeman does, which is one of the better performances here. The most inspired performances are from the kids, who put a lot of energy into their roles for better or for worse. At times, they felt a little too goofy, but they did well enough with the material they're given. I suspect with a more performance driven director, they could have done much better.
So, why is the film getting the buzz it is? Well, apart from the fact that people probably just love dolphins, it's likely that the film actually has a really nice story. Ultimately, that is what prevails. It's a tale of triumph, as kids fight for something they believe in and accomplish something great for the sake of another. And that's enough for people to shrug off the shortcomings. Though I don't know how much of the movie is actually founded in truth, I suppose I can be forgiving too. There sure are a whole lot worse things you could take your kids to. Like The Smurfs. Don't get me started on that.
Rating: 2.5/5 Sour Grapes