Let me tell you right from the start that yes, I was foolishly deceived by the movie trailer, which in retrospect is actually better than the full-length movie. Ah, my love for the abridged grows stronger! It’s free, fast, and much more interesting because it’s often obscured by the particular placement of sound and visual clips. And there’s something about how after finishing a story, it loses its ‘romanticism’ – kind of like how, once you finish a really good book, you’ll never feel the same level of satisfaction from re-reading it, unless you could somehow delete the story from your memory.
From the Warner Brothers Studio comes a new tail, and tale, about a dolphin and her boy Sawyer (Nathan Gamble). Based on a true story, Dolphin Tale is kind of like a kids’ version of a documentary about Winter, a dolphin that lost her tail by getting it caught in a crab trap. After being washed up onto a beach, she’s found by a fisherman and a scrawny and apathetic boy called Sawyer, who suddenly finds everything about marine life really interesting due to his newfound concern at the poor dolphin. Along the way, he befriends everyone at the Clearwater Marine Hospital (based on the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, the actual name of the place that took in Winter), especially the Hasketts – the main staff workers of the hospital. However, despite having a special connection with Winter, Sawyer is told that without her tail Winter would risk permanently damaging her spinal cord, so the race is on against time to find some way to save Winter, who has somehow become the embodiment of hope – not only to Sawyer, but also to anyone who could empathise with the dolphin’s predicament.
This was definitely a very family-style, heartrending story, made all the more touching because Winter is real. The message of “family is forever” (kind of like Lilo and Stitch‘s “Ohana means family, family means no-one gets left behind or forgotten”) was very played up and kind of clichéd, but meh. It’s a family movie, therefore we must stick in a moral that kids can learn. But what was truly inspiring was the way the characters, especially Sawyer and Hazel (the kid of the Haskett family, played by Cozi Zuehlsdorff), didn’t give up on Winter, and Winter responded to their efforts.
However, barring the message of the story and the touching scenes, there doesn’t seem to be much substance elsewhere. The plot was pretty predictable, and was littered with a few ‘holes’ – for example, Sawyer is kind of bullied at school, but nothing comes from that scene. (Plus the bullying was kind of lame and unoriginal, although that could be said for any type of bullying.) Dr. Clay (Harry Connick Jr.), Hazel’s father, makes eyes at Sawyer’s mother (Ashley Judd) after meeting her for the first time, but nothing comes from that, either. And in my opinion, the bonding times that Sawyer had with Winter (cue inspirational music, shiny underwater lighting, cuddly moments) were a bit too long and drawn out which made it cheesy instead of touching. The CG animators also made it obvious and inserted a few ‘3D’ actions just for the sake of it, which I don’t like. If it’s worth seeing in 3D then it shouldn’t take any effort to do so, like the movie Avatar.
But I’m being picky again. Like I said, this is a family movie, and should be enjoyed as such. I loved some of the real footage of Winter showing up at the end of the movie, and seeing how many people’s lives she’s touched because of what she’s been through. Triumph through adversity! Huzzah, and all that jazz. Make sure you bring a kid and/or a veteran if you’re planning to watch this movie, because I’m sure they’ll also be inspired by Winter’s story of faith, hope, and love. Otherwise, you might just be better off at watching the trailer and leaving it at that, because for me, the summarised version was more moving due to its condensed format.