Graphic Language: None
Strong Sexual Content: None
“Just because you’re hurt doesn’t mean you’re broken.” Words spoken by Dr. Cameron McCarthy (played by a whiskery Morgan Freeman) encapsulate the underlying message of Dolphin Tale, a true, predictable yet inspirational story of a connection between an injured dolphin and a young boy.
I took my entire family to see Dolphin Tale, and judging by the reaction of my kids (ages 10, 8, and 3) the movie worked on many levels.
The movie is carried by a young actor named Nathan Gamble, who plays Sawyer Nelson. He starts out as an introverted, awkwardly embarrassed boy carrying the weight of his father leaving his family. Disinterested in summer school, he happens by a beach—where he finds Winter, coiled in a crab fisherman’s rope and seriously injured. Against another man’s warnings, Sawyer lays his hands on helpless Winter, calming her down by whistling back the same sounds Winter herself is making.
From that point on, pun intended, Sawyer is hooked.
Sawyer meets Hazel (Cozi Zeuhlsdorff) and her dad Clay (Connick Jr.), who work at the Animal Hospital where Winter is taken. They recognize Sawyer’s connection to Winter, and ask that he help in her rehabilitation. Unfortunately, Winter’s tail is too badly injured, and must be amputated.
The true star of this movie was Winter, playing herself. I’ll credit the director, Charles Martin Smith, with keeping the CGI dolphins to a minimum. Many scenes were shot in such a way where you could almost see what Winter was thinking—an impressive feat. Throughout the movie there are amazing connections to disabled people (both physical and emotional) as well: Sawyer’s cousin Kyle (Austin Sowell) is wounded overseas, Dr. Clay is emotionally wounded from losing his wife, and the first person to hear about Winter is a young, wheelchair-bound girl who’s mother drove eight hours just to see Winter.
In a poignant moment, her hand touching the glass that separates her and Winter, the little girl says, “See mom? She’s just like me.”
Both Gamble and Zeuhlsdorff are fantastic; too often we see kid actors trying to act like kids. These two seemed natural, eating lemon ice and talking like normal kids. From a strict movie-making point of view, however, the rest of the dialogue left a lot to be desired. Fantastic actors, such as Harry Connick Jr., Morgan Freeman, and Ashely Judd, were handcuffed with one-dimensional characters and predictable lines. Granted, the whole movie was a bit predictable—you knew Winter was going to get a new prosthetic tail, you knew cousin Kyle was going to come around to accepting his injury, and you knew the Animal Hospital was going to be saved by the very man who bought it out. Even with all of the predictability of the story (a lot was revealed in the trailer) it still warmed the audience’s hearts—including those of my kids.
It’s a wonderful film, perfect for families that will make you feel great as you leave the theater!
“God will bless you, if you don’t give up when your faith is being tested. He will reward you with a glorious life, just as he rewards everyone who loves him.” James 1:12 Many of the characters in this film are faced with something that tests their faith, their livelihood, or their resolve. One point that this film nails dead-on is this: to not give up, no matter what circumstances may bring. A perfect metaphor for this struggle is Winter herself. A fish with no tail—no way of surviving, no direction, no forward movement. It’s no doubt that victims of accidents, disabled, or otherwise physically handicapped people can feel the same way. And honestly, everyone can feel, at some point in their lives, that suffocating tests of faith can leave them drowning. We can take heart in this verse, believing that God knows our hurts, knows our tests, and will bless us if we stand fast and stick it out. When life throws us in the deep end, we might just have to learn to swim a little differently to get where we’re going. Questions: With another person, talk about a time your faith was truly tested—and you couldn’t see your way out. How did that test of faith affect you, positively or negatively? During or after this test, how was God present in what happened?