Dolphin Tale 

How to train your dolphin

click to enlarge Dolphin Tale
  • Dolphin Tale

Sure, you could feel like a sucker for getting misty-eyed over yet another variation on the “boy and his dog” storyline like Dolphin Tale, especially one that gets clunky in its mechanics. Or you could just accept that some concepts just work, even when they’re not executed to perfection.

This loosely fact-based tale finds a Florida boy named Sawyer (Nathan Gamble)—fatherless, naturally, and emotionally withdrawn, of course—who discovers a beached dolphin wrapped in the rope of a crab trap. Taken to a financially strapped marine rescue facility, the dolphin—named Winter by the precocious daughter (Cozi Zuehlsdorff) of head marine biologist Clay Haskett (Harry Connick Jr.)—eventually has its tail amputated as a result of its injuries. Can a VA hospital prosthetics technician (Morgan Freeman) come up with a way to help Winter swim naturally again?

Thus begins a setup that’s two parts Free Willy and one part How to Train Your Dragon, with Sawyer and Winter forming an emotional connection that may save them both. Director Charles Martin Smith—whose boy-and-his-dog bona fides were established with the original Air Bud—allows time for quiet scenes that build relationships. He also maximizes the talents of the strong cast—particularly the effortlessly wonderful Freeman—while avoiding obvious developments like hooking up Sawyer’s mother (Ashley Judd) with the widowed Dr. Haskett.

That doesn’t mean Dolphin Tale is as smooth as a dolphin’s nose. Screenwriters Karen Janszen and Noam Dromi overstuff the narrative with a subplot involving Sawyer’s swim-champ/disabled soldier cousin (Austin Stowell), and some forced drama surrounding the possible sale of Dr. Haskett’s facility to a rich developer. But somehow the basic material just clicks, holding on to the way people can be inspired by the most unexpected things, and the powerful bond that can form between wounded people and the animals they love.

DOLPHIN TALE

click to enlarge 3_stars.gif

Nathan Gamble, Harry Connick Jr.
Rated PG

Twitter: @ScottRenshaw

Pin It
Favorite

Tags:

More by Scott Renshaw

Latest in Film Reviews

  • Oscar Nominations 2015

    City Weekly film contributors react to the Academy's choices, for good or ill
    • Jan 21, 2015
  • American Sniper

    One soldier's struggle for normalcy tells a bigger story in American Sniper
    • Jan 14, 2015
  • Foxcatcher

    Riveting character study is a non-sensationalist account of a true story
    • Jan 14, 2015
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

What's Happening

Opera

Utah Opera: The Pearl Fishers

Capitol Theatre

Sat., Jan. 17, 7:30 p.m., Mon., Jan. 19, 7:30 p.m., Wed., Jan. 21, 7:30 p.m., Fri., Jan. 23, 7:30 p.m. and Sun., Jan. 25, 2 p.m. / $10-$95

© 2015 Salt Lake City Weekly

Website powered by Foundation