’Dolphin Tale’ Is a Tale for All Ages

The essence of a good story is one that involves struggle and hardship, but ihas a happy ending.  And this story is one many people will want to hear about.  Even better is when that story is true and give us an opportunity to expand our understanding of what we can do to help others, beyond the theater.  All of this is what the movie “Dolphin Tale” brings to the table.

Last Friday, September 23, “Dolphin Tale” opened in nationwide release.  It stars some big names, in relatively smaller parts, including Harry Connick, Jr., Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman.  There has been a large press effort made to get the word out about this film.  It brought in nearly $17 million in revenue and jobs to Florida and no doubt will increase tourism to South Florida.

The film made over $19 million in its opening weekend, roughly half of the budget for the film.  It opened to stiff competition in the kids market with Disney’s “The Lion King” re-release in theaters.  There are quite a few things this story has, though, that its animated competitor does not.

The movie is based on the true story of a dolphin named Winter.  Winter (playing herself) was stranded on a beach in 2006 in Clearwater, FL, after she got tied up in the rope of a crab trap.  She is discovered by Sawyer Nelson (played by Nathan Gamble), a local eleven year-old boy, whose own life is unravelling.  Sawyer’s father left him and his mother (played by Judd), his favorite cousin was headed off to Iraq and his grades are dismal, forcing him into summer school.  The two forge a bond poigninantly portrayed and the film makers did a great job keeping the gore to a minimum.  You know why she lost her tail, but thankfully, we didn’t have to see it happen.

As the bond between Winter and Sawyer deepen, the drama surrounding Winter’s future, the future of the rescue center rehabiliating Winter and in Sawyer’s own life build.  Just as things could not look any worse, Sawyer and his friend, Hazel (played by Cozi Zuehlsdorff), who is also the daughter of Dr. Clay Haskett (Harry Connick Jr.) and head of the marine center, come up with an idea to save the Center from being sold to a hotel developer.  They host “Save Winter Day,” and redemption arrives for all just in time.

Some of the more moving scenes center around what Winter does now – including help with the rehabilitation of people with physical disabilities and support foster care and adoption.  Winter continues to make a huge impact, as evidenced by the dozens of stories posted on her website.  Through this movie, kids will see that Winter is a rare glimpse into the beauty of creation and how we should support conservation and good works at a global, as well as local level.

As far as the movie itself, there were a few hiccups, but they don’t detract from the encouragement this movie provides.  The film is just shy of two hours long, as well as the tempo can get a bit choppy.  It goes from one high energy scene to a slower, more dramatic scene in quick succession, so it can get a little challenging to focus at times.

Overall, though, if you have kids, especially kids who love animals, this is a great family outing.  I would suggest this for older children, above the age of 6, just for the length of time and involvement of the story.  There are no issues with language, violence and not a hint of an inappropriate romantic overture.  It is just a good, old fashion story with a happy ending the whole family will enjoy!

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