No one tell the FBI that schools all around the country are likely violating copyright law by showing flicks to the public for the price of a suggested donation. These thieves are harming Hollywood and must be stopped! I can neither confirm or deny that I saw Dolphin Tale at such an event.
Some might argue that my neutral feelings towards Dolphin Tale came about because I feared the punishment that was surely to come. Or they might argue that the dimly lit picture and faint audio in an auditorium tainted not only my viewing experience but the film as a whole. Even taking all that into consideration, I can confidently say that the (based on a true story) movie about a dolphin that loses its tail and not only lives but gets an artificial replacement tail is not great, nor is it terrible. It’s OK at best. Much to my disappointment, as the first thirty minutes of the movie had me believing it might have some real promise.
Sawyer Nelson (Nathan Gamble), a grade schooler, only has his mom, as his father died serving in the armed forces. He’s very quiet and keeps to himself as a result. One of the young men he looks up to, his cousin (Austin Stowell), has joined the army and is being deployed. To top it all off it’s summer time and Sawyer has to attend school all day.
Sawyer hangs his head and makes the journey to school. He rides his bike past the beach and a man waves him down for help. A dolphin is washed up on the beach. Sawyer gives the man his phone and then attends to the dolphin. The porpoise and boy make some sort of ET and Elliot like connection. I’m loving it. This is right in my wheel house.
The dolphin is taken to a marine life rescue center. Sawyer blasts off after school for the center. He meets a girl, Hazel (Cozi Zuehlsdorff), around his age who shows Sawyer around. It’s not long until Sawyer ditches summer school and spends his days with the dolphin, who has been named Winter. The movie, up until this point, had me hooked. The story of this lonely kid who has a special connection with this tail-less dolphin and spends his every moment with or thinking about his aquatic friend is compelling. Too bad the screenplay decides that’s not enough. We get about a zillion more sub-plots, characters, and made-for-TV moments until it’s all over. The worst part is that all this extraneous material extends the movie to just under two hours. Kids in the theater…errr…auditorium…errr…”place” were wiggling restlessly through the last half hour. I can’t blame them. The movie had worn out its welcome.
Dolphin Tale could have been a really good film. That is what makes it so frustrating. There was talent and a promising first act. The lack of discipline in sticking to the most compelling story and characters doomed the movie. It could never be more than average at best.