It's hard to beat a true story about someone overcoming a disability, or a cute animal surmounting adversity for survival. Dolphin Tale offers both, recounting the true story of Winter the dolphin from around 2005 when she lost her tail fin in a crab trap, only to be later fit with a prosthetic tail. You can still watch Winter via webcam on her site.

A remarkable story, for sure, and the filmmakers have recreated the basic details of Winter's rehabilitation while padding it with lots of inspiring and meaningful subplots. The movie is commendable for its wholesomeness and morality. But whether or not Dolphin Tale amounts to great filmmaking is debatable.

Set and filmed in Clearwater, Florida—where Winter was actually rescued—the movie centers around a lonely 11-year-old named Sawyer (Nathan Gamble), who lives with his mother Lorraine (Ashley Judd). The boy is failing school and struggling to make friends, heavyhearted over the divorce of his parents and the deployment of his cousin Kyle (Austin Stowell) overseas. One day he finds an injured dolphin washed ashore. He calls 911 for assistance and a team from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium arrives, led by Dr. Clay Haskett (Harry Connick Jr.) and assisted by his 10-year-old daughter Hazel (Cozi Zuehlsdorff). Nicknaming the dolphin Winter, they bring her back to their facility for medical attention and physical therapy.

Sawyer quickly makes friends with the marine staff, thanks largely to precocious Hazel, and forms a special bond with the dolphin that could aid in her recuperation. But even though Winter initially seems all right, she develops a bad habit of pushing her tail side to side rather than up and down. This could become a terrible strain on her spine, ultimately ...

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Dolphin Tale
Our Rating
2½ Stars - Fair
Average Rating
(20 user ratings)ADD YOURSHelp
Mpaa Rating
PG (for some mild thematic elements)
Directed By
Charles Martin Smith
Run Time
1 hour 53 minutes
Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, Harry Connick Jr.
Theatre Release
September 23, 2011 by Warner Bros. Pictures
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