There’s a time-honoured rule in Hollywood that states: “never work with children or animals.” And yet, a film involving a troubled young man growing with the aid of an injured dolphin has them both recover from their emotional and physical injuries together has “Heart-warming” written all over it in big shiny huggable letters. Even more so when the story is based on a true account.
Dolphin Tale is based on the story of Winter, a real life dolphin who is found tangled up in a net and brought to the Clearwater Marine Hospital. Young Sawyer Nelson (Gamble) is involved with the rescue efforts, and forms an attachment to Winter almost straight away. Soon he starts staying away from summer school to spend time with the dolphin, initially causing friction with the head doctor, Clay Haskitt (Connick Jr.). Nelson starts coming out of his shell for the first time since his father’s disappearance; but when Winter loses his tail due to his previous injuries, Cameron McCarthy (Freeman) is enlisted to design a prosthetic tail for Winter.
Dolphin Tale aims for a plethora of dramatic moments, including every possible device you could imagine. Parental abandonment, a desperate fund-raiser, a clash of authority figures, an injured family member returning home from a war. Despite this though, the movie never especially gets soap-opera like, as the feel-good moments of each success permeate the film as a whole, leading towards an inevitable happy ending (especially seeing as Winter the dolphin plays herself).
Dolphin Tale is probably best watched with a family, especially if there are any young girls in that group. The actors do a good job of what needs to, with veteran talent from Morgan Freeman always appreciated. Nevertheless, the subject matter will probably mean that its best watched in the group described. Rent it once if your little ones seem interested, or if you happen to be babysitting some kids who need to be held down for a bit; otherwise feel free to catch it on television when it eventually airs.