Rated PG. Running time: 1 hour 47 min.
Our content ratings (0-10): Violence 1; Language 1; Sex/Nudity 1.
Our star rating (0-5): 4
God spoke: “Swarm, Ocean, with fish and all sea life!
Birds, fly through the sky over Earth!”
God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them
reflecting our nature
So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea,
the birds in the air, the cattle,
And, yes, Earth itself,
and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.”
Genesis 1:20; 26 (The Message)
Those looking for a good family film amidst all the current offerings of violence, horror and sex should be more than satisfied by director/writer Charles Martin Smith’s film. It is rare for a sequel, in that it possibly is better than the original Dolphin Tale. Like the 2011 film, this one also is based on “true events.”
Smith brings back most of the original cast, but even if you did not see the first film, there is enough information given about the dolphin Winter and her prosthetic tail fashioned by Morgan Freeman’s Dr. Cameron McCarthy, so that you will have no problem understanding this one. Sawyer (Nathan Gamble), who has developed a close bond with Winter, and Hazel (Cozi Zuehlsdorff), daughter of Dr. Clay Haskett (Harry Connick Jr.), the director and head doctor at the Clearwater Marine Hospital, are now teenagers. His mom Loraine Nelson (Ashley Judd) and her father are both single parents, but the story does not involve any Hollywoodish romantic antics on their part.
Winter’s tail, fashioned by Dr. McCarthy, has enabled the dolphin to navigate around the pool almost as well as before, although she will never be able to survive in the ocean. With an older dolphin as pool mate she thrives, her playful antics and unique tail drawing such crowds that the hospital, once threatened with closure, is now a popular aquarium. Hundred of visitors each day visit and watch her. Both Sawyer and Hazel are senior team members who train volunteers. However, when Winter’s companion dies, the grieving dolphin retreats into a funk, refusing to cooperate with the humans. A government inspector serves notice that Winter might have to be placed in another facility if no companion can be found. Because dolphins are extremely social by nature government regulations forbid the keeping of any dolphin by itself.
Hazel and Sawyer believe that Mandy, an injured dolphin recently brought in, will be the answer. However, after the team’s loving care restores Mandy to Health, Clay reluctantly adheres to the code he had set for the clinic, “Rescue, Rehab, Release.” Painful as the decision is to all, he will not sacrifice Mandy’s freedom for Winter. Sawyer and Hazel, argue against him, both desperate, each of them wanting to bring Winter out of her funk and to keep her on at their facility. From this struggle of wills each of the teenagers will emerge with a new maturity. Sawyer also faces another struggle, a decision over whether to accept a marine biology scholarship that would take him away from his beloved Winter and friends, or to stay on.
There are plenty of elements in the film for children, youth, and adults—gorgeous underwater photography, adorable dolphins and a cantankerous pelican that draws laughs, plus themes of love, friendship, and of human stewardship over one of God’s most wondrous creatures. It is so good to see a film in which the adults are mature and loving and actually respected by the kids, the latter responding to their guidance and wisdom. This is an inspirational film for a youth or intergenerational group to see and discuss.
This review, with a set of discussion questions, will be in the Nov. 2014 issue of Visual Parables.