Dolphin Tale—movie review

Not all family films are created equal. This one was inspired by the remarkable real-life story of a dolphin named Winter who washed ashore in Florida, had to have its tail amputated, and taught itself to swim even without the appendage. As it turns out, that wasn’t the end of Winter’s challenges.

Karen Janszen and Noam Dromi have built a screenplay around that true story that draws on familiar Hollywood-movie tropes, but plays well just the same. A likable young actor named Nathan Gamble plays a lonely boy, being raised by single mom Ashley Judd, who helps rescue Winter and develops a special—

—connection with the creature. Even the man (played by Harry Connick, Jr.) who runs a sea rescue facility in Clearwater has to admit that the dolphin responds uniquely well to the boy. It’s his determination that fuels many of the events that follow.

A parallel story involves the boy’s cousin, a kind of big brother who goes overseas to serve in the military and comes home after being injured wearing a leg brace. Winter’s need for a prosthetic tail becomes a direct source of inspiration for the young veteran, and many other grownups around him. Morgan Freeman plays a prosthetics specialist at the local V.A. hospital who takes on the challenge of fabricating an artificial tail for a species he’s never treated before.

Winter’s life-threatening crises, the boy’s loneliness, and the subplot of a close relative going away to war and being hurt in an explosion are the reason Dolphin Tale is rated PG, and not G. While the film might seem formulaic to adult viewers, it deals with pretty serious issues on its way to a happy ending; parents should know this going in.
It deals with these subjects in an admirably straightforward manner and doesn’t duck the realities with sugar-coating—but you may have to do some explaining to your kids.

Formula or no, by the end of the film I found myself tearing up—which I did a second time during a final sequence with home-video footage that shows how Winter continues to inspire youngsters who are missing arms and legs. They get a chance to spend quality time with the indomitable dolphin at his aquarium home in Clearwater. (To see some real-life footage, go to

Interestingly, this film was directed by Charles Martin Smith, who starred some years ago in a memorable movie about man and the animal kingdom called Never Cry Wolf.


  1. sameer says:

    good movies h……………….w all best

  2. Jay Lo says:

    A touching movie the kids enjoyed. They have since watched it a few more times and now the kids seem to love dolphins. The family enjoys watching movies more than regular TV. This is what makes the Blockbuster Movie Pass so special. An extensive library containing, thousands of movies, games and TV shows. Movie night has never been this easy. We get DVDs to my door, or I can stream right to my PC or TV. With this type of access there's never a dull moment. Getting a quick exchange is another benefit with unlimited in-store exchange. I can maximize my enjoyment with games, I no longer have late fees or due dates. I don’t have to go out on a cold night or wait in line for a movie. I hooked this up with my employee service from DISH for $10 a month. A small price to pay where other companies would make you have more for two accounts for the same feature. I get movies 28 days before anyone else. New customers who sign up can get this awesome deal free for 12 months.

  3. marmarskurerplatt says:

    it sucked…. one bad thing after another…

  4. Gloria Davis says:

    Hi, I have found your review fascinating…I think, you may consider of joining international movie network..a micro social network that deals with all kinds of movies, from all over the world..they even have their own facebook page too!!

  5. Alex says:

    And, Norm, were you just dying to somehow work in ‘politically correct?’

  6. Alex says:

    And as Leonard undoubtedly knows, Charles Martin Smith has compiled an extensive list of acting credits. To me he will always be Terry the Toad in ‘American Grafitti.’

  7. Norm says:

    They should have put a green propeller on him , to go along with the politically correct thinkers, gee, just think how much faster he could go, maybe even fly…Plenty of room for a squeakquel…

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