Business rating: 1.5/5 stars
Cast: Nathan Gamble, Cozi Zuehlsdorff, Harry Connick, Jr., Ashley Judd, Morgan Freeman.
What’s Good: The performances; the under-water cinematography; a couple of emotional scenes.
What’s Bad: The slow pace of the drama; the absence of conflict in the script; the lack of emotional connect between the dolphin and the boy.
Verdict: Dolphin Tale will fail to do much at the box-office.
Loo break: A couple in the latter half.
Watch or not?: Watch Dolphin Tale if you like emotional dramas involving animals.
Alcon Entertainment’s Dolphin Tale is based on the true story of a young boy who develops a bond with an injured dolphin and who then takes great pains to ensure that the dolphin gets a new lease of life.
In Florida, US, a dolphin is caught in a crab trap which severely damages her tail. Sawyer (Nathan Gamble), a young boy who is passing by, helps in releasing the dolphin from the crab trap and in calling for help. Workers from the local marine hospital come and take the dolphin for treatment.
Sawyer, whose mind often drifts from schoolwork, secretly starts going to the marine hospital daily to see how Winter (the rescued dolphin, whose tail has been amputated due to an infection) is doing. Bit by bit, he develops a bond with the marine biologist, Dr. Clay Haskett (Harry Connick, Jr.), who realises that Sawyer has a unique connection with the dolphin, as it responds to Sawyer’s presence. One day, Sawyer’s secret is found out by his single mother (Ashley Judd), who is initially reluctant to give him permission to stop attending his summer classes. But when she sees Sawyer’s passion in tending to the injured Winter, she agrees to let him go to the hospital daily. Soon, Sawyer becomes fast friends with Hazel (Cozi Zuehlsdorff), the doctor’s young daughter, and both the kids jointly tend to Winter.
Dr. Haskett realises that although the spirited Winter is trying to swim without a tail, she is hurting her vertebrae in the process, and that this might lead to her death. Besides, the marine hospital, which is run by a trust, is in debt and is in the process of being sold to a land shark.
One day, when Sawyer visits his injured war-veteran cousin at an army hospital, he meets Dr. Cameron McCarthy (Morgan Freeman), who is an expert with prosthetics. Sawyer convinces McCarthy to make a prosthetic tail for Winter, so that she might live. McCarthy agrees even as Dr. Haskett is sure that the marine hospital is going to close down and that all the animals except Winter have been adopted, which means that Winter will have to be euthanised. How Sawyer and Hazel’s efforts save Winter and the hospital and make Winter a source of inspiration for handicapped people forms the rest of the story.
Dolphin Tale Review: Script Analysis
First things first: although the story of Dolphin Tale is based on true-life incidents (something that is validated by using real footage before the end credits), the way in which the story has been told is not very interesting and rather documentary-like. Attempts by the screenplay writers, Karen Janszen and Noam Dromi, to bring out emotions in the story are half-baked. For example, although Sawyer and Hazel’s friendship is shown to be forming, they have been given too much footage. The tragic incident of Sawyer’s cousin being injured in the war is sought to ignite the audience’s sympathy, but it works to a certain extent only. The real problem with the screenplay is that it fails in making the audience feel the bonding between Sawyer and Winter, something which is the crux of the whole film. Although most underwater sequences, with Winter and Sawyer swimming, dancing and playing with each other have been beautifully executed, the pain they share is never discernable. Hence, when at the end of the film, Sawyer’s cause triumphs, the viewer does not celebrate with the characters in the film. The drama has a few emotional moments but they do not bring tears to the audience’s eyes. The inspirational climax also seems rather forced. All in all, the slow pace and the lack of emotional connect with the audience pulls down the film, which otherwise makes for a decent attempt.
Dolphin Tale Review: Performances & Direction
Nathan Gamble acts with aplomb. He is excellent in the scenes with Winter. Cozi Zuehlsdorff is natural. Harry Connick, Jr. does well as the marine biologist. Ashley Judd is alright in a bit role. Morgan Freeman does a fine job as usual. Kris Kristofferson (as Dr. Clay’s father) and others support well. The dolphin, Winter (which plays Winter), has done a fair job.
Charles Martin Smith’s direction is average as he is unable to bring out the full impact of the screenplay. Mark Isham’s background score is appropriate. The cinematography, by Karl Walter Lindenlaub, is top-notch, especially in the under-water sequences. Editing, by Harvey Rosenstock, could have been sharper.
Dolphin Tale Review: The Last Word
On the whole, Dolphin Tale is a well-intentioned film that doesn’t go all the way. In the absence of a well-known star cast, the film will find the going tough at the Indian box-office.
Dolphin Tale Trailer
Dolphin Tale released in India on November 4, 2011.