“Well imagine my delight.”
A Dolphin Tale of a dolphin’s tail that is largely fictionalized, although the dolphin in question is played by the real life survivor that inspired the film. Never go looking for history in movies, but even this imagined tale has the power to uplift and inspire.
Sawyer Nelson (Nathan Gamble, looking much like Roddy McDowall in My Friend Flicka) is a quiet boy being raised by his single mom Lorraine (Ashley Judd). He seems to most communicate with his cousin Kyle (Austin Stowell), but Kyle has enlisted in the military and is going away.
One day Sawyer is bicycling and is flagged down by a fisherman (Richard Libertini) who asks him for his phone. A dolphin (Winter) has washed ashore tangled in a crab trap. As the fisherman calls 911, Sawyer removes some of the rope from the dolphin and the fish clicks sweetly at him.
The responders are from the Clearwater Marine Hospital run by Dr. Clay Haskett (Harry Connick Jr.), his young daughter Hazel (Cozi Zuehlsdorff), and his father Reed (Kris Krisofferson). Sawyer skips school and sneaks into the hospital to see how the dolphin is doing and makes a quick friend of the Hackett’s who discover that the dolphin they’ve named Winter responds to the boy.
They’ve had to amputate Winter’s tail and her new style of swimming is destined to kill her. Kyle returns wounded from the war and a visit to the dour soldier has Sawyer meet prosthetic designer Dr. Cameron McCarthy (Morgan Freeman) who Sawyer thinks can design a new tail for Winter.
At the end of Dolphin Tale there is real footage of Winter and my kids wondered if they would get to see the real boy too. I hated to tell them that the tale that forms Dolphin Tale is largely invented. Yes, there really is a Winter who got a prosthetic tail but many of the human circumstances featured in the film where done for dramatic effect. No kids were really involved with Winter ala Free Willy.
I never go looking for too much truth and reality in movies since real life would probably make a boring movie, but these additions were done to make the story more kid friendly I’d imagine. The results are sure to entertain and uplift you. It is really uplifting that such effort was put into saving Winter, who actually plays herself.
I bet that story might have stood on its own without having to make up the rest. What has been manufactured has a familiar ring to it but it still manages to draw you into the story.
The performers are up to the task with Stowell and the rest of the cast up to the task (Freeman is his curmudgeonly, charming best) and actor turned director Charles Martin Smith is a firm hand on the tiller.
Dolphin Tale is presented in a 1080p high definition transfer (1.85:1). Special features, all in high definition, include the 2 minute “Hutash Rainbow Bridge” scene from the film with some animated assistance, the 13 minute “At Home with Winter” behind-the-scenes, the 7 minute “Spotlight on a Scene,” the 18 minute “Winter’s Inspiration” which is more of the true story, the 2 minute deleted scene “Winter Meets Panama,” a 3 minute gag reel, and the 4 minute animated short “Ormie and the Cookie Jar.” Disc two is a DVD copy of the film that has an Ultraviolent digital copy.
A Dolphin Tale offers an inspiring tale but wraps it in a fictional cloak. I couldn’t help but think that the real story might have been a better fit, but my kids liked it (well, my daughter and wife did chirp a bit when they found out that the kid stuff was made up).
It features some good acting, direction, and gorgeous scenery just don’t expect that much “truth” in the “inspired by a true story”-line.
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