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The film is inspired by the remarkable true story of a courageous dolphin named Winter and the compassionate people who banded together to save her life.
For more about Dolphin Tale and the Dolphin Tale Blu-ray release, see Dolphin Tale Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on January 4, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Harry Connick, Jr., Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, Nathan Gamble, Kris Kristofferson, Frances Sternhagen
Director: Charles Martin Smith
» See full cast & crew
Dolphin Tale Blu-ray Review
A sweet but conventional family-friendly tearjerker...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, January 4, 2012
Be warned: you've seen Dolphin Tale before. Dozens of times, actually. You may not recognize it at first and you might not realize you already have it somewhere on your shelves. But, even if you know exactly what you're in for, you probably won't mind. Animal-rescue dramas have been a staple of all-age family films for decades, and it's difficult to think of one that doesn't involve a young protagonist, a heap of harmless conflict and a heartfelt coming-of-age story. But Dolphin Tale has a few things going for it that separate it from the rest of the genre pod. It's based on a true story for one, the caliber of the cast, young and old, is higher, and Winter -- the never-say-die dolphin who lost her tail after being caught in a crab trap off the coast of Florida in 2005 -- plays herself in the film. The end result is a bit more moving than your run-of-the-mill genre pic, even if, at the end of the day, it's simply a more refined take on the same old run-of-the-mill genre pic.
Although I'm sure the script all but named itself, Dolphin Tale isn't the story of a dolphin named Winter or the rough waters she endured to adjust to life with a prosthetic tale. No, Dolphin Tale is a decidedly human tale; and, even then, one very loosely based on the events that inspired it. There were no children mulling over how to help dear Winter after she washed ashore in 2005 (or, rather, found herself trapped in a lagoon), no special bonds developed between boy and dolphin, and no emerging or mounting crises to contend with -- financial, meteorological or otherwise -- beyond designing a device to save a creature in need. Needless to say, Dolphin Tale isn't just a human tale, it's a bit of a fairy tale too. Still, it's tough to fault screenwriters Karen Janszen and Noam Dromi for embellishing the truth and indulging in cinematic convention. Every film needs a hook, family films especially, and the story of boy meets dolphin is an oldie but a goodie. (As good as any, I suppose.) This time around, the young man in question is Sawyer Nelson (Nathan Gamble, The Dark Knight's little Lieutenant James Gordon Jr.), a bullied, broodish boy who, you guessed it, finds happiness and purpose while rallying adults to his side to do the impossible: giving a tailless dolphin a second chance.
The adults, of course, are skeptical -- doubters and dream-crushers initially intent on teaching poor, naive Sawyer that life's tough, and not much more -- as adults in these films always seem to be. We're introduced to the boy's shortsighted but well-intentioned mom (Ashley Judd), a marine biologist (Harry Connick Jr.) who isn't so optimistic about Winter's chances, a young girl (Cozi Zuehlsdorff) who wins Sawyer's friendship (and really his heart), a devoted prosthetics whiz (Morgan Freeman) who takes a leap of faith to help Sawyer, and a cadre of familiar family-film archetypes who slowly reconnect with their shattered hopes and dreams as Sawyer teaches them anything can be accomplished if you believe it's possible and work hard enough to make it happen. And so it's up to Sawyer to teach them the ways of the world. Do you taste a hint of cynicism in the air? Sorry, that's mine, and I'm actively trying to suppress it. It turns out I learned a little something on my way through Dolphin Tale. As predictable as it is, as telegraphed as every move it makes can be, it's too easy to dismiss the kind of kid-friendly, moral-packing genre pic Hollywood tosses out like candy each year. Seasoned moviegoers may see it for what it is, yet another variation on a popular family film, but children aren't so jaded. While I was grumbling about the lack of originality and honesty in Dolphin Tale, my son was swept up in Sawyer's plight, his mother's struggles, Dr. Haskett and Dr. McCarthy's quick thinking and ultimate successes, and Winter's unwavering will to live. My thirty-plus years have begun to take a toll on my ability to enjoy a film on its own terms. But my son? It's all new and wondrous to him. He laughed, he cried, he did everything Dolphin Tale would have him do, and he wants to do it all again.
What drew him in so deeply? If you said Winter, you only get partial credit. Winter earns plenty of screentime, and rightfully so, but it's Gamble who shoulders the bulk of the film's burdens and steps out as its most winsome asset. No small feat for such a young actor taking on such a long-established standard. He not only sells every line that comes out of his mouth and every tear that streams down his cheeks, he wears his heart on his proverbial sleeve, and it goes a long way. Flanked by the likes of Judd, Connick, Freeman, Kris Kristofferson and Frances Sternhagen (most of whom almost keep their heads above the melodrama maelstrom), Gamble runs circles around many of his Hollywood peers and reminds me of a certain once-young, now-A-list actor who also forged an early career friendship with a dolphin. The story too -- sterile as it can be amidst all the sappiness, excruciatingly contrived as its Save Winter Day third act is -- doesn't push or pull too hard. Oh, it's manipulative. It yanks heart strings as if there were a mini-marine biologist marionette on the other end. But it doesn't get ahead of itself or lose sight of its message. Dolphin Tale is an extremely focused tale and, if nothing else, Janszen, Dromi and director (and veteran character actor) Charles Martin Smith have trimmed the fat from what could have been an unwieldy leviathan of an ensemble drama. It's a touch ordinary and a ton schmaltzy, sure, but it's ordinary and schmaltzy done well, and primed for mass consumption. And yes, chances are you'll come away shrugging your shoulders. But your kids? Your kids will probably have an entirely different movie-watching experience.
Dolphin Tale Blu-ray, Video Quality
Dolphin Tale darts through crystal clear Blu waters with a sleek 1080p/AVC-encoded video transfer sure to delight fans of all ages. Contrast is a bit hot to the touch, but colors are strong and striking, skintones are summery and well-saturated, and black levels are nice and deep. Detail is excellent, and everything from the finest texture to the smallest adolescent freckle to the cleanest, sharpest edge is refined and wonderfully resolved. Some passing softness is apparent from time to time, but none of it is derived from faulty encoding. Artifacting, banding, aliasing and aberrant noise aren't a factor, significant or otherwise, and only the slightest hint of ringing and the most negligible instances of crush do anything to bring the presentation down. (Other than the glaring light the highly detailed transfer shines on the film's less-than-extraordinary CG.) Make no mistake, Dolphin Tale looks fantastic.
Dolphin Tale Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Warner's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is front-heavy, but only by design. Smooth, convincing waves, ripples and lapping waters still roll across the soundfield, and directional effects are convincing whenever they're employed. But Dolphin Tale is a dialogue-driven family film, and it's greatest claim to aural fame is absorbing aquarium ambience, notable water tank acoustics, welcome underwater immersiveness and lightning-quick pans. Voices are also bright and intelligible throughout, LFE output is more than serviceable (especially when it comes to supporting and embracing Mark Isham's spirited score), and dynamics are quite decent. Ultimately, Dolphin Tale's lossless mix doesn't disappoint. The film doesn't make the sonic splash a bigger, brawnier blockbuster might, but it sounds great for a heartwarming family drama.
Dolphin Tale Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Dolphin Tale Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Dolphin Tale isn't nearly as inspiring as the true tale that inspired it, but as emotionally eager family films go, it does what it does well. Warner's Blu-ray release, though, is much, much better. Its video transfer swims incredibly close to perfection, its DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is a sonic survivor, and its supplemental package will appeal to fans of all ages. It isn't an amazing release, and it isn't an amazing film, but you and your family could certainly do worse.
Dolphin Tale: Other Editions
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Dolphin Tale Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Dolphin Tale Blu-ray - October 28, 2011
This December, Warner Home Entertainment will bring Dolphin Tale to Blu-ray. Inspired by a true story, the film centers on Winter, a dolphin who, after losing her tail in a crab trap accident, forges a special bond with a young boy (Nathan Gamble, Babel). Dolphin ...
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