Director: Charles Martin Smith
Cast: Harry Connick, Jr., Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, Kris Kristofferson, Nathan Gamble, Cozi Zuehlsdorff, Austin Stowell
Release Date: September 12th, 2014
Three years ago, link the original Dolphin Tale surprised audiences and critics alike with its charming but endearing portrait of an injured dolphin named Winter that needed to be rehabilitated to survive. Obviously, the based on a true story template is hard to duplicate in a sequel, especially if the sequel wishes to remain with the same characters and, in this situation, the same dolphin.
Fortunately for families out there, Dolphin Tale 2 does just that.
Continuing the story of Winter, it builds a whole new story (again, this one is based on a true story) and shows the human characters as they grow and learn to adapt to a new situation (like the dolphins are often asked to do). Sawyer Nelson (Nathan Gamble), who became Winter’s unlikely ally in the original, has grown in his position at the Marine Hospital. He’s now teaching volunteers how to work with the animals alongside mentor Dr. Clay Haskett (Harry Connick Jr.). He’s grown so beautifully in his position that a oceanic study program wants him as a full-time student (a great opportunity, of course, but also one that would separate him from Winter).
Winter has settled comfortably with her new tail but when her fellow dolphin named Panama dies suddenly, the Marine Hospital has to face a regulation that prohibits individual dolphins from being secluded from other dolphins. If another dolphin doesn’t become accustomed and adjusted to swimming with Winter soon, the hospital could lose their beloved dolphin forever.
Like in the original, this sequel is easy to enjoy. It’s never too syrupy and corny and the story offers up a few wonderful little surprises. Just when you think a clear resolution is in sight, these pictures have a clever way of showing that the easiest resolution isn’t always the one that will work out in the end. Of course, Ashley Judd (playing Sawyer’s mother) and Morgan Freeman (playing a prosthetics expert) are back along for the ride to serve as friends for both Sawyer and Winter.
Bethany Hamilton, the inspiring surfer whose journey was portrayed in Soul Surfer, makes a cameo here as a person who was truly inspired by Winter and although it superficially feels like a gimmick, it works to show Winter’s inspiring impact on millions of people. Writer/director Charles Martin Smith seems to have found the sweet spot for this difficult genre. On the one hand, a movie about a dolphin that overcomes a physical burden and inspires fans around the world has all of the makings of a groan-inducing TV movie of the week. And yet Smith takes the story to a higher level focusing on positive and charming characters who are simply trying to overcome their everyday obstacles.
There’s a lot to like about Dolphin Tale 2 and that’s what elevates it above similar fare. It’s family-friendly but it’s also something that families can enjoy together without someone groaning that this is just a kiddie movie. This is a movie– warm-hearted, good-natured and sweet– that different generations can and should be inspired by.
Review by: John Hanlon