Dolphin Tale is inspired by the true-life rescue of an injured dolphin, after it became entangled in the ropes of a crab trap off the coast in Florida. That dolphin came to be known as Winter, and she sportingly plays herself in this anything-but-subtle film that squeezes a half-dozen cheesy subplots into the central story of this animal’s fight for survival after it loses its tail.
The film’s hopeful message and its earnest tone make it a suitable watch for young audiences who’re unlikely to cringe at its over-sentimental contrivances like an animal rescue center facing bankruptcy, a promising swimmer who becomes depressed after losing a leg in war, and a reclusive, fatherless kid who has no friends. Even the parallels between the dolphin and wounded war veterans are made obvious enough to reach out to young kids, while adults must make do with Morgan Freeman’s charming performance as an eccentric doctor who agrees to build a prosthetic tail for the maimed mammal.
I’m going with two out of five for Dolphin Tale. It’s an inspiring yet insipid watch, most likely to be enjoyed by animal-loving little ones.