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Dolphin Tale: Movie Review

Hannah Goodwyn


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It’s not Free Willy meets Flipper. Warner Bros.’s new family movie, opening this weekend, is about a dolphin and focuses on a young, troubled boy and his sea mammal friend. But, that’s where the plot decidedly goes in its own direction. Inspired by a true story, Dolphin Tale is an inspiring film for kids and grown ups too.

Director Charles Martin Smith's film has its drippy moments and doesn’t go quite as deep as the emotionally intense Free Willy, but that's what makes it a kid-friendly movie. It's still engaging, funny, hits home the importance of family, and doesn't contain questionable content.


Sawyer’s life is an unhappy and lonely one until he finds a friend in an injured dolphin he helps to rescue. Taken to the Clearwater Marine Hospital, the dolphin, soon named Winter, struggles to survive. The prognosis is dire, especially after the hospital’s lead marine biologist Dr. Clay Haskett (played by Harry Connick, Jr.) amputates her tail. Sawyer (Nathan Gamble) and the rest of the CMH team work around the clock, hoping for a turnaround. Desperate for a miracle, Sawyer reaches out to Dr. McCarthy (Morgan Freeman), a prosthetic specialist, to create a groundbreaking contraption that will allow Winter to swim, in effect, saving her life.


Starring Harry Connick, Jr., Ashley Judd (as Sawyer’s mom), Morgan Freeman, and Kris Kristofferson, Dolphin Tale has a good cast telling a remarkably true story of restoration. The film’s youngest stars, Nathan Gamble and Cozi Zuehlsdorff, pull their weight as well. In fact, these two notable actors prove their skill in the story’s dramatic and comedic scenes.

What’s even more moving than the film itself are the videos shown during the ending credits of the amateur video of Winter being rescued from the beach and the disabled men, women, and children who have visited Winter in Florida, and left inspired and filled with hope for their futures.

A family-friendly movie, Dolphin Tale has a PG rating for mild thematic elements. The stand-out obscenity is part of a Jason Mraz song used in the film. Young children may get distraught over seeing the dolphin in peril. But these scenes are tastefully done by the director, making the film, for the most part, suitable for all ages.


For what it is, a movie about two friends who wouldn’t give up on each other, this new movie from Warner Bros. is one to see. Dolphin Tale, though it won’t win any critical awards, hits all the right buttons for a good family film.

This movie critic’s one complaint against Dolphin Tale… 3D glasses. Why is it necessary to don this uncomfortable eyewear to see a movie in the theaters these days?

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About The Author


Hannah Goodwyn served as a Senior Producer for, managing and writing for the award-winning website. After her undergraduate studies at Christopher Newport University, Hannah went on to study Journalism at the graduate level. In 2005, she graduated summa cum laude with her Master's from Regent University and was honored with an Outstanding Student Award. From there, Hannah began work as a content producer for For ten years, she acted as the managing producer for the website's Family and Entertainment sections. A movie buff, Hannah felt right at home working as's