I’m sure if I was still a kid who didn’t know any better, I’d think Dolphin Tale was the best movie of the year – but I’m not a kid and I definitely know better. For that reason, when a studio puts out a movie made for people who don’t know any better, it comes across as a cheap trick, fooling the innocent and unknowing into seeing and liking a formulaic piece of garbage.
Dolphin Tale has nothing new and original to offer. It’s story stitches together pieces of other familiar films, and it doesn’t even do that well. A fatherless kid is having a hard time. He doesn’t have a single friend. The only person who talks to him is his mother (Ashley Judd), but he doesn’t even speak much to her. The only person somewhat close to his age that talks to – not with – him is his college age cousin who’s about to leave for the armed forces. He’s a loner, playing with remote control helicopters everyday.
While riding his bicycle down a coastal Florida trail, the kid notices a beached dolphin with its tail entangled in the rope of a crab trap. As a looney fisherman calls for help, the kid busts out his trusty Swiss Army knife and cuts the plastic-looking fake dolphin free. All of a sudden, a kooky family of marine biologists shows up and wisps the dolphin away to a marine hospital.
When the kid finally catches up with them, he learns that they had to amputate the dolphin’s tail and that it’s having a hard time dealing with the pain and learning to eat from a bottle. But when the porpoise sees the boy who did nothing more than cut a rope off her tail, she calms down and starts eating. How cute – the kid’s first friend is a tail-less dolphin.
Previews make the prothetic limb part of Dolphin Tale and the return of the injured cousin out to be major plots points within the story, but they really only enter the equation towards the end. The movie plays off like little episodes of a Saturday morning cartoon. First it’s about the kid, then the cousin, then the mom, then the dolphin, then the kooky marine biology family, then the marine hospital, then a helicopter, then a hurricane and then a fundraiser. Bad kid’s movies like this have no business running 113 minutes – even less so in pointless 3D.
But the most annoying problem that Dolphin Tale faces is its lead character/actor. No joke, this kid’s reactions are so odd that you’ll think he’s autistic when the movie starts. Whenever asked a question, with a confused look on his face, he asks, “What?” When the inquisitive person repeats the question, he finally answers. 50 percent of the dialogue in the film comes from repeated lines after the dummy asks, “What?” It will drive you bonkers.
If you’re not a kid and you know better, steer clear from this disaster. With its pure manipulation, corny script and recycles storylines, it will make you stir crazy.
Photo credit: Warner Bros.