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Movie Review: A Dolphin Tale

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I have a fascination with sea creatures, particularly mammalian ones (and mostly whales, but I shall get into that later).  Additionally, my heart strings get wildly tugged at the sight of disabled animals.  One of my favorite charities, in fact, is a farm in New Hampshire that exclusively takes in the disabled dogs, cats, and horses that are almost impossible to place in other homes.  So, despite fearing that the actual quality of A Dolphin Tale, the film based on the true story of a disabled dolphin, would be sub-par, I felt compelled to see it.  The fact that it is based on a true story, and (okay) because I was bored on a transatlantic flight (but I swear I was planning to see it anyway!) only furthered my desire.

The movie actually starts well, with gorgeous images of dolphins swimming around and then the sight of men in boats, carelessly throwing crab traps in the water, with ominous implication.  Then, we get the horrible image of a dolphin beached on shore, bleeding and caught in one of the traps (those damn heart strings).

The film itself is exactly as one might imagine it.  It is scored with generic-sounding family movie music.  There is a human story to parallel the dolphin one which is utterly predictable.  The dialogue is cheesy and simple as exemplified when Morgan Freeman proclaims “Just because you’re hurt, doesn’t mean you’re broken.”  Additionally, there are some aspects to the story with respect to the boy who initially freed the dolphin from the cage helping out at the conservation center that seem unrealistic.  I’m going to have to do some research, but it seems unlikely that a professional animal conservation site would allow a young boy in to help with the dolphin’s rehabilitation.  If I’m wrong, well, good.  But otherwise, I suppose, it was just one of the cheesy plot devices central to the movie.

What I really wish is that a documentary had been filmed about the process of rehabilitating “Winter,” the miraculous dolphin (who plays herself in the film, which does make it ever more heartwarming) and creating her prosthetic tail.   It would have been amazing to view footage of the dolphin being rescued and see her attempts to swim without a proper tail, the rejection of the original prosthetic prototypes and finally her triumphant return to self.   This, accompanied by interviews of those involved in the process, would have made for a far more interesting feature than this one.

As it is, the film is pretty dull a lot of the time.  But, if you are moved by stories like this, and you can ignore everything but the simple and amazing story, it really is quite a moving film.  Apparently they now use the gel sleeve that made the prosthetic more comfortable, for human prosthetics as well.  At the end of the film, they provide us with what seems like real footage (though I’m not sure) of amputee children and adults who come to visit the disabled dolphin.  That definitely gets the tears flowing. (It’s okay, I was flying Business Class.  You’re totally allowed to cry in Business Class.)

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About Nili Wexler