Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars
When we last left Winter the dolphin, she was swimming happily (thanks to her prosthetic tail) and had become an inspiration to handicapped people the world over. But that wasn’t the end of her story.
It’s been three years since Sawyer Nelson (Nathan Gamble) and Winter became national celebrities. The pair spend their days entertaining the many visitors to the Clearwater Marine Hospital (which has now become a mini-aquarium). As the film begins Winter is visited by Bethany Hamilton, the young surfer who lost her arm to a shark a few years ago (and has her own film, “Soul Surfer”). Things seem to be going well. But they’re not. Winter is getting moody. When her tank mate, a much older dolphin named Panama, passes away, the gang at the aquarium face a predicament. Find a new pal to keep Winter company or lose her to a Texas theme park.
The first “Dolphin Tale” film seemingly came out of nowhere and swam its way into the hearts of filmgoers, earning in excess of $70 million during its run. It was a well written story with an important message that families took to heart. And while the new film has its moments, it has some plot holes that keep it from really reaching the same heights as its predecessor, most of them centered on the film’s young cast. But before I go into them, let me clear up a few things. Like the first film, “Dolphin Tale 2” is based on some true events, most of them dealing with the dolphins featured. For fans of the first film, I should point out that there really IS no Sawyer Nelson. Winter was not rescued by a lonely 11-year old boy after washing up on a beach. She was saved after being caught in a fisherman’s net. And while it’s nice to have Sawyer (and Hazel, the 14 year old daughter of the hospital director) hanging out with the dolphins, they are just TOO smart and given way too much responsibility to be believable. If I was a trained marine biologist and my day had to begin by being lectured by a 14 year old on how to do my job I’d find another one in a minute! Just because we see a giant microscope and two thesauruses on Sawyer’s bookcase doesn’t make him Matt Hooper (inside “Jaws” reference). In one scene Hazel picks up Winter’s medical charts and begins diagnosing her blood work. And I’m sorry, but for two kids that work outside IN FLORIDA year round, neither of them can seem to get a tan. Casper the ghost isn’t as white as Hazel.
On the positive side, the film features some fun scenes featuring a nosy pelican and a giant sea turtle, as well as introducing us to a cute baby dolphin named Hope. Director Smith, who also wrote the script, does a good job in moving the film along. Younger children will enjoy the antics of the various animals involved and, like the first film, the end credits, showing handicapped children visiting and interacting with Winter, will bring a tear to your eye and a lump to your throat.