Today: February 21, 2024

Dolphin Tale

It has always been said that one should never work with children or animals. Yet over the years film-makers have chosen to ignore this, embracing the theme of the heart-warming connection between a kid and an animal as they know it is a movie theme we have come to love.

It has always been
said that one should never work with children or animals. Yet over the years film-makers have
chosen to ignore this, embracing the theme of the heart-warming connection
between a kid and an animal as they know it is a movie theme we have come to
As children and
even now, we love nothing more than having a good old cry at Old Yeller, laughing at Cats and Dogs or watching Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey on a Sunday afternoon, with
family or in blissful solitude, glad that no one is
around to call you a big kid. In
1993, Free Willy came to our screens
and confirmed yet again the popularity of this genre. Everyone had a little sniffle at this story of a troubled young
boy and his friendship with a killer whale in captivity. Shortly after this, the 1964 television
series, Flipper was adapted for the
big screen with Elijah Wood and it became
clear that the plight of the aquatic animal was a theme to be built upon. Cue, Dolphin Tale which came to us in 2011, with the same theme, but
this time actually based on a true story.

Dolphin Tale is based on the story of Winter the dolphin,
who survived the ordeal of being caught up in a crab trap in 2005. She was rescued by a fisherman and
nursed back to health at the Clearwater
Marine Aquarium
in Florida, but her efforts to escape the trap had left her
with profound injuries that led to the amputation of her tail. However, scientists knew that without a
tail, Winter would not live and they endeavoured on a mission to fit her with a
prosthetic tail to ensure her survival.
The film takes this true story and fits it in to a family movie
formula. In Dolphin Tale it is the
devotion of a young boy that rescues Winter when he suggests the solution of a
prosthetic tail to save her life.

Dolphin Tale is essentially the Free Willy or Flipper for
the modern generation and is riddled with all the clichés of this type of
movie. The action is played out as
an adventure in one summer, with the lonely outcast boy and the endearing
animal that is the only one who understands him, providing a distraction from
his daily troubles. However, this
formulaic approach to such an inspiring true story does dumb it down. A team of real life prosthetists and
biologists put their all into saving the life of an animal. Although it is an idealistic and sweet
notion, this film is contrived in having Winter’s life saved by the devotion of
one boy while the people around him have, albeit unwillingly, lost hope and given
up on her.

Nathan Gamble, who
most will remember as James Gordon Jr. in The
Dark Knight
, plays the young boy, Sawyer Nelson and his performance is
quite admirable and stands out against that of his co-stars. Harry
Connick Jr.
as the dedicated marine biologist in the ‘surrogate father’
role and Ashley Judd as Sawyer’s
mother play their roles well, but then we have seen this kind of thing from
them before. Cozi Zuehlsdorff, who plays Clay’s daughter and Sawyer’s friend,
Hazel Haskett, began her acting career with an audition for Annie – and it
shows. It may be her first ever
movie role, but her overacting will have you screwing up your face in annoyance
at several points in the film. However,
Morgan Freeman, who always makes the
most of any role thrown at him, is endearing and believable as prosthetics
expert, Dr. Cameron McCarthy and he fits the character like a piece in a

As is to be expected, most of the laughs in the film come
from animals. The Clearwater
Marine Aquarium resident pelican draws a few laughs – wandering around freely, hounding
visitors and turning up unexpectedly.
We see Winter lolling about in the pool on a lilo with the kids and of
course, spontaneously spurting water at all and sundry when she wants attention. There is no denying that Winter makes
you smile – she is an adorable, mischievous little character and you know that
everything you see of her personality is actually true. This is enhanced by the fact that she
plays herself in the film as much as was possible.

It has to be said that Dolphin Tale is overplayed and clichéd. However, it redeems itself with sweet
sentiment and it does warm the cockles to know that Winter’s inspirational story
is true. This film will be a hit
with the kids and if you try to turn a blind eye to the cringe-worthy moments,
you can enjoy it too.

Misha Wallace - Social Media Editor

From the age of 4, Misha Wallace became transfixed by movies like Halloween and The Birds from behind the couch, unbeknownst to her family. This has developed in to an obsession with fantasy and horror films (and a considerable number of cheesy 80s and 90s flicks – but she will not be judged). If she was a character in a film she'd be the girl at the end of a horror movie, doused in blood but grinning victorious. Email: or find her any time of the day or night on FilmJuice social media.

Previous Story

Valentine’s Day

Next Story

Miss Bala

Latest from Blog


Memory (2023)

Memory is an exquisite American drama in the tender embrace of Michel Franco’s cinematic prowess.

Slaughter in San Francisco

A gloriously trashy slice of kung fu film-making, Slaughter in San Francisco, AKA Yellow-Faced Tiger, was producer Raymond Chow’s attempt to capitalise on Hong Kong cinema’s sudden explosion of popularity in the West. Released in 1974,

Head Count

That the Burghart Brothers know how to make a fun film is apparent five minutes into Head Count. The fact that they’ve been able to produce such a deliciously slick, dark comedy,

The Daleks in Colour Unboxing

BBC took a big risk with The Daleks in Colour – fans of Doctor Who are notorious for their passionate and purist approach to their beloved series, so to not only colourise
Go toTop