The film "Dolphin Tale" premiered this weekend, and I bravely hit the theater with four young girls (ages 5 through 9) in tow. With an all-star cast including Nathan Gamble, Ashley Judd, Morgan Freeman and Harry Connick Jr. and lots of dolphin frolicking scenes, I figured this film would be a good fit for kids and adults alike. I was not mistaken.
"Dolphin Tale" is loosely based on the true story of a dolphin named Winter. Her story boils down to this: Winter was rescued off the coast of Florida with a crab trap entangled around her body. She was brought to the nearby Clearwater Marine Aquarium for treatment, but the wounds on her tail were so badly infected that her tail had to be amputated. Winter taught herself to swim without a tail, but the unnatural movement of her swimming was injuring her spine. So her medical team met with a specialist to design a prosthetic tail for her.
In and of itself, Winter's tale is a beautiful story. As you might expect, Hollywood added a bunch of human drama to the mix — a socially awkward kid without a dad, a charming young girl who lost her mom, and a cousin recently injured in the war, not to mention hurricanes, financial woes and summer school. The fictionalized storyline goes a bit over the top toward the end, but, fortunately, it never drowns out the real story of Winter.
By far the best part of the film is that Winter plays herself in the movie. So the dolphin you fall in love with on screen is the real dolphin that fought back death and learned to swim again after losing her tail. And it was that part of the film that touched me the most. I didn't have to reach for the tissue box until after the film was over and the real footage of Winter — her rescue from the beach, her therapy, and her interaction with disabled kids and adults — is interspersed with the film's credits. That's when the movie really hit home for me.
The bottom line: "Dolphin Tale" is a great family movie. A beautiful story about a beautiful dolphin who serves as an inspiration to us all.