Dolphin Tale

Dolphin Tale

**

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

A huge hit on its opening weekend in the US, Dolphin Tale reaches these shores atop a wave of publicity. Kids going through a dolphin phase will be ecstatic at the thought of seeing it. If they can sustain that enthusiasm through nearly two hours of film - not easy for little ones - then they may well enjoy this. Adults in tow, however, are likely to find it rather too wet.

Following in hallowed animal film tradition, Dolphin Tale has a dolphin at its heart but spends altogether too much time on human characters, quickly becoming entangled in subplots that take ages to resolve. There's young Sawyer (Nathan Gamble), a depressed child whose gradually growing confidence in the presence of his aquatic pal still doesn't give viewers much to engage with. There's Hazel (Cozi Zuehlsdorff), all freckle-faced enthusiasm, too young to be love interest but providing an alternative identification point for girls in the audience.

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Harry Connick Jr plays her father, moody in a television afternoon stylee, whilst Ashley Judd is fretful yet bland as Sawyer's mum. Kris Kristofferson plays his usual grizzled old man, channeling Jeff Bridges without the personality, and Morgan Freeman phones in his performance as the prosthetics expert from the local military who steps in to help the dolphin. Oh, and to treat Sawyer's cousin (Austin Stowell), the young military man ostensibly representing the tragedy of war but mostly just taking his shirt off.

With all this going on, we just don't get to spend as much time with the dolphin as we should. Granted, footage of people swimming around with her or playing various games can only remain interesting for so long, but at least she can act. Genuinely disabled herself, Winter adjusts her behaviour to recall each stage of her own recovery process, and shows considerably more emotional range than most of her co-stars. One is left wishing she could write, as she might well have come up with a less cloying script. This one fell off the sentiment tree and hit every branch on the way down. There are no blushes spared, no emotions left unwallowed in.

Dolphin Tale may please the kids (at least on a first viewing), but it is likely to leave others feeling as if they've eaten six large slices of sickly sweet cake without any actual flavour.

Reviewed on: 11 Oct 2011
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Dolphin Tale packshot
A boy's life is transformed by his friendship with an injured dolphin.
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Director: Charles Martin Smith

Writer: Karen Janszen, Noam Dromi

Starring: Nathan Gamble, Winter, Cozi Zuehlsdorff, Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd, Morgan Freeman, Austin Stowell, Kris Kristofferson

Year: 2011

Runtime: 113 minutes

Country: US

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