Things were not going well for the pre teen Sawyer (Nathan Gamble). His father took off a few years earlier. His mother, Lorraine (Ashley Judd) has him in summer school were he’s none too popular, his cousin a local competitive swimming hero heads to Iraq for military duty. But Sawyer’s fortunes are about to change. He happens upon a baby dolphin whose been caught in a crab trap and is badly injured. Using his cell phone to summons help, Sawyer’s call leads to the dolphin coming under the care of Dr. Clay Haskett (Harry Connick, Jr.) who operates a clinic for marine life.
Sawyer goes to the clinic to check on the dolphin who the staff has named Winter. The infirmary area of the clinic is off limits to outsiders. But Dr. Clay’s daughter Hazel (Cozi Zuehisdorff) sneaks Sawyer in. Dr. Haskett objects to Sawyer’s presence until he notices that Winter reacts positively to Sawyer being around. So rather than going to summer school, Sawyer spends happy days helping nurse Winter. Unfortunately, Winter’s tale is so badly infected it has to be removed. But Winter ultimately recovers and even learns to swim without it. But then there is more bad news. The swimming motion the tailless Winter uses is an unnatural one and causes damage to his spine. Enter prosthetics doctor, Cameron McCarthy (Morgan Freeman). Dr. McCarthy takes on the tremendous challenge of creating a water durable prosthetics device for Winter.
The Dolphin Tale lives up to expectations and gets a See It rating. True to form for this film genre, the writers really pile on the heart tugging elements of the characters’ lives. Sawyer is fatherless, his role model cousin is leaving, and his classmates hate him. His new friend, Hazel’s mother is dead. So like Sawyer, she has only one parent. Also the clinic is having financial problems and may have to close. But all of these subplots lay the foundation for a very happy ending.
As with many movies the writers take liberties with reality. For example, a hurricane arrives with barely an hour’s notice. With today’s technology, the arrival of storms is announced days in advance.
Dolphin Tale features a strong cast. Young Nathan Gamble as Sawyer has a strong on screen presence which is necessary as a leading character. Harry Connick, Jr, who appears to be in good shape, must have had it in his contract that he gets to wear tight shirts in every scene. Because he does.
On our Cast Diversity Rating, Dolphin Tale gets a “B”. Morgan Freeman has a pivotal role and saves the day as Dr. McCarthy. There are also people of color in other supporting roles.
Dolphin Tale does what is expected. It delivers an entertaining and heart warming story and it’s a See It. It’s rated PG for mild thematic elements and is 1 hour and 49 minutes in length.