Dolphin Tale 2 released recently by Warner Brothers was the number two at the box office its opening weekend in September. I saw the film Saturday afternoon in a theater packed with children, parents and grandparents. Part of the fun of the film was hearing the giggles and responses of the kids in some parts, but their absolute silence in other scenes of the film. The film had their attention and deserves it.
It is a family movie, not just in the sense that it has kid actors, animals and “lunge free” viewing (parents do not have to lunge to cover their children’s eyes or ears), the film is about the importance of family and friendships, of letting go and of remaining committed.
The first Dolphin Tale film tells the story of the rescue of Winter, a female dolphin whose tale fin had been cut off after being caught in a crab trap. Dr. Clay Haskell, played by Harry Connick, Jr., takes the wounded creature to Clearwater Aquarium assisted by his daughter Hazel, Cozy Zuehlsdorff, and her friend, Sawyer, Nathan Gamble. They pair an older dolphin named Panama with Winter and ultimately fit her with a prosthetic fin invented by Dr. Cameron McCarthy, played by Morgan Freeman. All based on a true story.
The real Winter is a celebrity at the Clearwater Aquarium drawing many visitors, among them many disabled people. Her ability to adapt to the prosthetic fin has inspired humans living with loss of limb or faced with physical challenges.
In Dolphin Tale 2, Winter’s dolphin friend Panama dies. In spite of efforts by Cozy, Sawyer and the staff, Winter is depressed. They must find a companion dolphin for her or risk her health and also the loss of the aquarium under pressure from the USAD.
Every character in the film seems called to clarity dedication to a purpose greater than themselves and must wrestle with what that means in terms of their life decisions. The staff at the Clearwater Aquarium rescue animals with the idea to return them to the wild as soon as possible. Though they come to love the sea creatures in their care: they must be able to release them back to the wild. The staff, including young Sawyer and Hazel, live the struggle of sacrificial love.
At the same time, Sawyer is offered a scholarship to a semester at sea program based in Boston. Nathan Gamble says about his character, “The last three years at the Aquarium have been so great for him; it’s given him purpose and many friends, so he struggles with whether or not he should go.” Can he let them go? Can they let him go off to school so that he can become the person he is called to be?
The cast includes other greats like Ashley Judd and Chris Kristofferson, not to mention a scene stealing pelican and other beautiful sea animals.
All ages can see and enjoy Dolphin Tale 2. It is wonderfully escapist in the sense that it has little of the cynicism and darkness of so many films today, but it still points to significant life issues that are worth a little reflection with touching moments, beautiful scenes and fun along the way.