Dolphin Tale hits theaters this weekend with a bit of a splash, though possibly a little too much splash and not enough rippling. The stories tells the remarkable tale about the true-to-life dolphin “Winter” who lost her tail in a a fisherman’s net and was saved by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Florida, which was not only represented in the film, but where they actually show the film. In the triumphet story, not only does “Winter” re-learn how to swim, but she also helped pioneer new technologies for amputees and give hope to all of mankind. Her story is an inspiration for us all and her tale (pun intended) is one that easily tugs at ones heartstrings. The film seems like an easy sell, but despite its extremely positive message it’s not without its problems, the first of which is that they forgot the heart of the story.

The Players:

The Plot:

“Winter” a wild dolphin gets trapped in a fisherman’s net that causes he to have to have her tail amputated. With the help of her new-human friends and one wacky scientist, they’re able to help her find a way to swim again.

The Good:

  • The Messages: From paying attention the lessons that life teaches us if you let it, to following your heart, to helping others, to kids communicating with your parents, there are a number of solid messages that parents should be proud to show to their kids. Yes, people can argue them, but at the heart of the film, is the belief “do good to others” and “fight for what’s good” and  honestly, there’s nothing more important to teach our youth.
  • The Documentary Footage: For me, the documentary footage that they showed after the film was one of the most compelling and emotional parts. There’s something about the true grittiness without the Hollywood shine that really gives the story it’s impact. If only we could have had more or they would have embodided it into the whole movie we could have had something truly amazing.
  • The Little Girl: Will be an amazing actress once she stops pushing and trying so hard. There’s a lot of raw talent there and it will be exciting to see her hipefully discover it as her career continues. This film definitely shows that he’s packed with potential
  • The Heart: The filmmakers set out to make a film with heart, and though I have my complaints, I think they succeeded in creating a very sweet, touching film, with a beautifully positive message

The Bad:

  • Unnecessary CGI/3D: As previously stated, the documentary footage and the real shots of “Winter” bonding with the children is what sells this film. The CGI, which is rarely used, should have been never-used. It’s unnatural and jumps out at you in a distracting and ineffectual way.
  • Drama/Length: They fabricated a lot of unnecessary dramatic devices, which distract from the true interest of the story and leaves the film with a runtime that few young ones will be able to sit still through — despite the fact that they should because of the beautiful messages this film teaches. There’s no was a 6-year-old will be able to sit still through this film, it’s long, very long.
  • Focus: They focused too much on trying to hype up the story and missed out on the truly entertaining part, a boy and his dolphin. They didn’t need all the excess drama (Ex: Free Will), such as the hurricane and toy airplane, and CGI dolphin jumps and pelican eyes. None of that really enhanced the story and that’s because there was such a strong center to it. It felt like they didn’t have full faith in the concept itself and someone let someone convince them that by adding more they would get something greater, but instead the just got a longer runtime with less heart.


This film is a success because it’s one of the first kids films in a long time that I feel deals with some truly positive messages and morality tales for kids and even adults. “Winter” is beautiful to watch on screen, there are a number of charming moments, interesting characters (human and non-human), and at the heart of it there is a truly inspiring story that teaches one to love and accept those around them and never give up on one another. I can’t bash a film that delivers a message like this — I just wish they could have told it a bit faster and with a bit LESS of a splash.

Rating: 6/10

Dolphin Tale hits theaters September 23rd!