Film Review – Dolphin Tale
+ Too many plotlines/lessons/characters: Here is what is in this movie: A damaged boy, a hard-working mom, a missing dad, a caring aunt and uncle, an injured cousin who is also a soldier and a former champion swimmer, another champion swimmer, a caring coach, a sexy news reporter, a summer school teacher who appears not to care, a sassy pelican, a plucky girl, a dead mother, caring co-workers, a dolphin with a missing tale, two whole and happy dolphins, a funny-but-wise old black dude, a funny-but-wise old white dude, a non-profit board that is trying to do the right thing, a good father, an uncaring real estate developer, a girl with one leg, her mother, a hurricane, and a sea slug. It’s not too much to follow, it’s just too much.
+ Too long: This movie is 113 minutes long. They really needed to tighten up the plot and get rid of all the filler. It’s all over the place.
+ Archetypal characters: The only character in this film that didn’t fall neatly into a type is Hazel, and she only escapes being the Plucky Girl by being a particularly natural child actress.
+ Ashley Judd is in your movie: She phones in her performance as Sawyer’s mom. There were a couple of scenes where I thought she was just making cartoon faces of what she thought a mother might look like.
+ Unnecessary 3D: Why was this in 3D? There was absolutely no reason for this. I have pretty much come to the conclusion that 3D only belongs in movies where people are getting impaled, and that is another dolphin movie entirely.
+ Underserved ending: One of the plotlines surrounds the question of “will they be able to save the animal hospital from being sold?” The whole resolution sequence for this is stupid and insulting. I probably would have been much kinder on this film had they not done what they did. In fact, there was one sentence at the end of this movie that was so insulting to my intelligence and to any little bit of integrity that this movie might have had, that I left this film really angry. It’s a family film about a dolphins; the worst I should have felt is disappointed and bored.
+ False sentimentality: This is something that I feel a lot of movies suffer from, not just the mediocre ones. The scenes where Sawyer is playing with the dolphin while the music is swelling are to be expected. How else would you know that you are supposed to care about them? But there are two things in this movie that go way over the line. The subplot with the cousin, Kyle (Austin Stowell), has no point except to tug on your heartstrings. We journey with swimmer Kyle as he leaves for the army and returns as a broken man, unwilling to accept that he will have to walk with a brace. (In all other ways he is physically undamaged, by the way. No unsightly scars or anything. And when he swims, it’s just slightly slower than he used to.) The only purpose his storyline serves is as a way for Sawyer to meet Dr. McCarthy, which could have been done a million billion other ways. This story belongs in another movie where they could have dealt with Kyle’s injury honestly. His appearance in this movie just feels like they are using the war to manipulate the viewer’s emotions. I’m not really down with that. The other extraordinarily creepy moment comes late in the film. A mother and her little girl have driven eight hours to see Winter. (The movie has just revealed something unpleasant is about to happen and everyone is feeling rather raw.) When the girl gets out of her mother’s car, we see that she is in a wheelchair and only has one leg. She gets her first sight of the dolphin, puts her hand on the glass and says, “She’s just like me.” REALLY? Ugh.
I don’t know what to say. This movie is bad, but if my kid were still young enough to want to ask to watch it, I would say yes. There is nothing harmful, it has a few good messages, and some cute animals. But it is still bad.
Final Grade: D+