Dolphin Tale (2011)
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Let me start by saying that I have a child with a physical disability, and during his second surgery, his school class gave him a book about Winter. This was way before the movie, and I had never heard of Winter. My son (age 5), who loves fish and sea life, was instantly taken with the idea of a dolphin that was special like he was. We read the book many times, and even at the hospital we promised that someday he would get to meet Winter.
About six months after his surgery, we traveled to Clearwater from our home on the opposite Florida Coast (4 hour drive). When we arrived we found the aquarium there very sparse and not all that impressive. That said, they were majorly renovating due to the money that they were paid to make this movie even though it still wasn't out yet. That said, Winter was well worth the trip. She is every bit as inspirational and real as what you see in the movie. I'm only bringing this up to focus on my movie review. This is for anyone that thought the movie was over the top sappy or cheesy. I'm sorry, but that part is true and to not make it look that way would be virtually impossible. Winter gives hope to people with special needs. My son even made her a card and got to hold her special tail.
The other features of the movie like the boy finding her and probably many other aspects are creative license. She was actually found by a boat on the East coast of Florida. But, I don't think that really matters. When we went there, even with no movie, and met Winter we knew that she was a movie star.
The movie itself was well produced, well-acted (Morgan Freeman was very good), and took on difficult themes subtly for young children. I guess the best comparison to this would be Free Willy, however that story was pure fantasy and simply not as good of a movie, in any way, to Dolphin Tale.
I highly recommend this movie for any family, especially anyone with a disability. And as far as the barely believable and possibly sappy plot, sometime real life is like that and that is a good thing!
Director Charles Martin Smith, best known for his roles in The Untouchables and Never Cry Wolf, takes a heartfelt story and presents it just as is. The movie's lead is a young actor named Nathan Gamble, who plays Sawyer Nelson. . Gamble is surrounded by high level talent, which you usually don't find in movies of this type; Ashley Judd, plays Lorraine Nelson, Sawyer's mom; Morgan Freeman, working alongside of Judd for the third time, plays Dr. McCarthy, a VA doctor tasked with trying to create a working prosthetic to replace Winter's tail; and Harry Connick Jr. is doctor Clay Haskett, who runs the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and along with his team is mostly responsible for saving Winter's life. Judd provides an endearing charm as Lorraine, and her enthusiasm shines through. There couldn't have been anyone better to play Dr. McCarthy than the great Morgan Freeman. Freeman gives credence to Dr. McCarthy and, thanks to him not being in the right frame of mind, his dedication to creating a new tail for Winter. The charismatic Harry Connick Jr. gives a stellar performance, providing Sawyer with a role model. Cozi Zuehlsdorf makes her acting debut as Hazel Haskett, Sawyer's best friend. Along with Sawyer, the two of them work together to make some magical happen. Zuehlsdorf's shining personality and adorable smile, along with her chattiness, reminded me of what makes my own daughter so special. Not to be overlooked or forgotten, Winter the Dolphin plays herself and is a wonder to watch.
Dolphin Tale teaches and inspires in so many ways. It teaches us to not judge anyone that may be different; it teaches us that family is forever; it inspires us to be role models; it inspires single parents to keep up the great work; and most importantly it inspires those that have set back to never give up. Winter's story is an incredible miracle. As I sat between my son, who's almost 8, and my daughter who is 5, I couldn't help but well up with tears at the determination of these extraordinary people as they all went above and beyond in the hopes of saving a fish; yes, I know that dolphins are mammals and are not really fish. At the end of the movie, I asked my kids how they liked it and they both said that they loved it. They then asked me how I liked it, and my response to them was "I think that may have been my favorite movie so far this summer." I no longer have to think about it, it IS my favorite movie so far this year.
Be sure to check out Winter at www.seewinter.com; and then check out our website at www.twodudereview.com
Although Dolphin Tale is by far not my favorite film of the year, like Midnight in Paris, it is a solid kids' film, an adventure that treats animals and 11 year olds with respect and doesn't demonize adults.
A dolphin, Winter, needs a new tail to survive a crab-trap entanglement, and 11 year old Sawyer Nelson is the new friend to help her through the adjustment. His job: show us that being excited about something worthwhile is the answer to school blues and mother loss. The film is aces at showing that being engaged in helping a living being leads to success and happiness.
A slew of other good-willed people help Winter, from like-minded friends to doctors to grandpas. And that's the sweet point of the film, emblazoned on an all-purpose Swiss Army knife: "Family is Forever." With two crucial families needing a mother in one and a father in the other, "family" extends to the community that nurtures children, adults, and animals. Not only does a Clearwater, Florida, marine rescue hospital need financial support to continue, so also does a crippled soldier and Winter. The figurative connections are obvious but still carefully entered into the drama so as not to heighten the sugar content.
Besides, any movie that includes Kris Kristofferson as a benevolent grandpa and Morgan Freeman as a caring prosthetics doctor can't be all bad. For a supposedly sophisticated film critic, I'm veritably childlike in the presence of these accomplished actors. BTW, Ashley Judd as single mom gets my attention, as she always does.
Yet that Winter, she's all any man could want: smart and silky with mysterious eyes that seem to say, "With our help, you men will make it just fine." No man bashing in this film, just recognition that communal charity and mutual respect will win the day.
Something about this Disneyesque, retro children's adventure makes me happy.
Dolphin Tale reminded me of some of the greatest animal films I've ever seen, such as 'My Dog Skip' 'Born Free' 'Babe' 'Old Yeller' 'Marley and Me' Benji' 'Free Willy' 'Lassie' and 'Flipper' but better! The family relationships between Ashley Judd and Nathan Gamble (mother & son) and then Gamble and Austin Stowell (1st cousins) and then Stowell and his parents Kim Ostrenko (Judd's sister) and Jim Fitzpatrick (Judd's brother in law & Stowell's father) and then Gamble and Winter the Dolphin and then Winter and Gamble and Cozi Zuehlsdorff (Gamble's new best friend) and her dad Harry Connick Jr (Marine Biologist) and then Connick and his dad Kris Kristofferson...was priceless.
The story of Winter obviously is what drives this film, but it the relationships is what makes this movie so emotional and visceral. Everyone will be able to associate themselves with these relationships.
Not to mention that the film is beautifully shot and it appears as though the town of Clearwater beach is a a cozy little beautiful place.
This may be THEE BEST animal movies EVER made...EVER!
There are many lessons that we can take from Dolphin Tale. One of the many lessons is that children who may not seem bright at first, just needs to find a subject of interest to them in order to display their intelligence. Moreover, miracles do happen, but sometimes we need to persevere long enough and never give up before we are able to see it happen. Dolphin Tale teaches us that there is hope even when all seems hopeless.
Dolphin Tale neither has a typical villain nor a big climax. It is simply an inspirational movie that I find to be emotional, entertaining and captivating. It is children friendly and excellent for the whole family to watch. I was astounded by this movie and I highly encourage everyone to watch it. The actors and actresses truly deliver. Moreover, I am once again dazzled by Gamble's acting as he brilliantly portrays the character of Sawyer Nelson. I look forward to his future projects and I believe he will continue to rise in the film industry.
I was concerned how my 13 year old son would like the movie. It's hard to impress him these days. But he loved it!! He said he can't wait to see it again! Definitely is a movie that is worth seeing in the theater. I also think this movie is totally worth the 3D money! The 3D was REALLY fun!!
Inspired by a true story, the main character is a child actor straight out of FREE WILLY. He not only helped rescue Winter, but is the only human being that the dolphin really responds with. Much of the film centers on the kid, his family – which includes a single mother and an athletic cousin wounded in battle – and the aquatic caretakers, lead by Henry Connick Jr. and his young daughter.
Things drag till the kid meets Morgan Freeman while visiting his cousin at a Veteran's Hospital. Freeman, who creates prosthetic limbs for wounded soldiers, is the man who gives the dolphin its new tail (several, in fact).
Winter violently rejects all prototypes till the very ending: when it all comes down to the line.
Directed by American GRAFFITI alumni Charles Martin Smith, this is more melodrama than adventure, but flows decently enough and most importantly, children will take interest.
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Just in case that the story about the dolphin was not enough to get the audience interested, the screenplay adds various instances of human drama in order to bring the characters to shape and fill the running time of the movie. Unfortunately, that "drama" is so elementary that I could not take it seriously, and the actors did not make too much effort to make it credible, with the exception of Morgan Freeman.
In conclusion, I think I would have preferred to see a documentary about the dolphin Winter, instead of this forced melodrama, which adds too many tangential ornaments to what should have been a simpler story. However, as I mentioned on the beginning, Dolphin Tale did not bore me, and I think that it is more palatable than many modern animated films, or than any rehash of Twilight or Harry Potter for the kids who are hungry of another fantastic franchise. In that aspect, Dolphin Tale is more worried about its story than about the marketing, something which is enough to make it worthy of a slight recommendation, despite having an artificial and recharged screenplay.
The main story of course is that of Winter, a young dolphin whose tail got caught and seriously injured in a crab trap. Sawyer, a young boy with school and father issues, grows very attached to this dolphin that he saved. When Winter's tail was eventually amputated, Sawyer sought the help of the prosthetics expert at the veteran's hospital to come up with a prosthetic tail so the dolphin could swim normally again.
To thicken this simple and straightforward main plot, the script gave us several supporting stories. We get the story of Sawyer's older cousin Kyle, a swimmer who tragically lost his leg in the war. The very marine hospital itself where Winter was confined was in trouble with its sponsors and was threatened with closure. The very community of Clearwater, Florida where the story happened also had to face the wrath of a calamitous cyclone. We get to witness how these "broken" people had the will to rise above their difficulties and move on with their lives.
There was of course no surprises anymore how this will end. However, the story telling was engaging without being too pushy or cheesy with its message. The kid actors were very natural and not annoying, especially the young man who played Sawyer, Nathan Gamble. I think it is a very good family film where important lessons about life can be learned by all. Once in a while it is quite refreshing to watch a happy positive film so reinforce the belief that not all hope is lost in this seemingly sad and cruel world of ours.
"Dolphin Tale" aims to tell a very simple story and never over-complicates it. The movie aims to offer an atmosphere and glimpses of lives rather than something story driven. Though the movie boasts of big names, they are never above or beyond the story and all are pieces of the story rather than big actors. The movie does veer a bit into the boy and his beloved pet territory that might get parent cringing that their kids are going to want dolphins for Christmas or dolphin rides or whatever the amusement park version of it is. But, as a whole the movie does manage to be about the dolphin Winter as the title promises and not overly about the characters.
For a movie to take your kids too and for you to enjoy as well, I highly recommend the movie.
It was wonderful to see a child that didn't fit in to the normal day to day life of most kids could find something to interest him and turn his life into something that made him so very happy. It very much shows how when someone feels all is lost, follow your heart and never give up. The world can surprise you. I will tell everyone I know that this movie is for everyone to see and enjoy as much as I did.
Part of what attracts me to 'living' stories is that these are timeless in appeal to all generations. When there are times of life 'tests', we can reach for the images and meaning of these stories for hope and inspiration. Dolphin Tale is such a tale...and, in this true story of 'Winter' -- the dolphin, there is a moment when an important decision had to be made given a life 'test', and in this process a classic was referred to by the grandfather (Kristofferson) in order to help guide this decision. It is a reminder to all parents and educators to read to our children from all types of works including great classics that paint these vivid images in our children's minds.
The other thing I liked about the story (aside from it touching my heart, and yes, tears will be shed) is that the main girl (Cozi Zuehlsdorff) in the story in home schooled and in no way is there any negative connotation. We see the benefits of what this looks like in her world and it shows the importance of how, in education philosopher Charlotte Mason's words, "Education is the science of relations." Learning is meant to be taught in a way that creates a love for life-long learning and how this love is interdisciplinary. Charlotte Mason believed that dreary/dawdling lessons "stultified a child's wits" and blocked his/her intellectual progress. I love the film example of the classroom teacher teaching content and method and how it did nothing for this film's other protagonist (Nathan Gamble): Luckily this protagonist was able to experience an example of 'homeschooling', and luckily Nathan Gamble's character's original classroom teacher witnessed these fruits so that he can hopefully change his meaningless classroom content and delivery methods that affect many of our nations' children.
Another reason I love this film....I just LOVE LOVE Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd's performances. This officially is a classic in my book!
Based on a true story it's easy to think you can take a kid to the movie and check out since you know the ending. Unanimated, you're probably thinking that you won't have to pay attention to get the adult humor that hopefully flies over kids heads that come with today's animated films and is intended for the parents that also have to attend. Let me help you - stay awake through the whole thing. Yes, the dolphin steals the movie (never work with kids or animals, especially when they're cute and talented), but the other characters are worth watching. I knew the ending, but in this movie, it's the journey you take in getting there that's worth the price of admission.
All in all, "Dolphin Tale" is a good family film for the weekend.
HOWEVER, if you want to see a movie with a well built up plot and real tension and passion, this is not for you.
There is one word that comes to my mind when I think of this movie: Bland.
It just screams it, our story starts off in some suburb in Florida presumably, where are main character (whos name I cannot seem to recall, probably something generic like Chris) is fiddling with junk in his garage while everyone outside is throwing some going away party for his older brother who is going off to fight in the United States Armed Forces in some unfortunate Mid-East conflict. Apparently our main character is sad because he has to go to summer school for some reason. His brother says some cliché inspirational words and then is off to honorably serve his country. Anyways, he is off to summer school or whatever when he is riding next to the beach where he sees a dolphin in distress, an old man helps him contact animal rescue services where they save the dolphin and bring it to the Generic Aquatic Animal Facility that's name isn't important enough to remember. Our character is curious and skips school to see the dolphin the dolphin he shouldn't really have an emotional connection to but does for plot reasons.
The boy actually BREAKS INTO the Aquatic Animal Rescue Whatever Facility to see the Dolphin only to advance the plot. Why would a minor break into an Aquarium I know not. He then meets a geeky marine animal loving girl who doesn't immediately report the intruder for some reason and lets him see the rescued dolphin. They then get caught by the dad uncle what ever figure who is OK that a minor broke into his Aquarium. Blah Blah Blah the boy has more of an emotional connection to the Dolphin blah blah. Apparently the dolphins name is "Winter" or something that will make you "AWWWWW That's SO CUTE" like the movie tries to do the entire time but Winter has a terrible tail injury and it needs to be amputated because reasons.
Meanwhile our main characters brother has had a terribly injury with a munitions bunker or something and has paralysis in his legs. This is the part of the movie that's supposed to be emotional because the Brothers injury represents the Dolphins injury or something that barley has a remote connection until THE ENDING CREDITS but whatever. Apparently our main Characters Brother is ashamed of himself because joining the military was the only way his family could pay for the main characters supposed Olympic swimming future or something. The rest of the movie has Morgan Freeman and our main character trying to make a prosthetic tail for Winter and more fabricated drama and a vomit worthy overly sappy music number.
Also a few scenes in the movie are about when the Mother finally discovers that her son has been skipping summer school to see the Dolphin. This is where it gets stupid. The bratty main character whines and cries about how she will never understand the ""MAGIC"" of Winter and the Mom changes her mind because her kid cried a little and then goes to the summer school teacher and says that her son is having a more ""enriching"" experience with a dolphin that he is at school learning about Mathematics, History, and Science that isn't marine biology. The teacher is consumed by the sappy narrative and caves in and lets our Character go to the Aquarium INSTEAD OF going to summer school which was probably a district order but whatever, when you have an overly emotional dolphin movie why need reality right? The Dolphin doesn't wear the tale properly and throws it off. This causes the Generic Marine Aquatic Life Rescue Center and Aquarium Learning Marine School or whatever the heck its called to predict Winter will die. Then they make a new prosthetic tale that the Dolphin learns to swim with and doesn't have to die.
But oh no, the Aquatic Marine Life Rescue Learning Center Extravaganza Animal Hospital is having Financial issues but Winter is so adorable people everywhere want to see it and the admission revenue saves the Facility.
In the end, the Dolphin lives, the kid gets to skip school, and the Magic Animal Hospital And Aquatic Display Learning Aquarium Facility doesn't go out of business.
The only memorable part of the movie is AT THE VERY END which shows WHAT REALLY HAPPENED, its a lot less dramatic I can assure you. It shows how people with prosthetics relate to the animal in a therapeutic relation sort of way which relates to the munition incident back in the film.
Honestly, this film was made about a little known Dolphin that receives a prosthetic tale. I am pretty sure the thing about the kids relationship with the Dolphin is completely fabricated sappy garbage made to make a quick buck off unsuspecting parents and pre-teens.