Dolphin Tale

Dolphin Tale PosterWhen this came out in theaters, I read a couple of reviews and thought that while it looked like a good clean family story, it didn’t appear to be anything to hurry out and see. And so I didn’t. When it came out on DVD recently, I thought I’d give it a try. I wasn’t sure whether I’d enjoy the story or not, but considering the fact that I don’t have time to review too many films anymore, I think you can guess my feelings…

A True Tale

Dolphin Tale is inspired by the true story of an injured bottle-nose dolphin named Winter. I say ‘inspired by’ because that’s about as close as it gets. The real Winter’s story is a little less dramatic and doesn’t have any children in it, but who wants to make a family film without a family?

But while the movie does take some artistic liberties with the actual story, the main details are the same. A dolphin is discovered washed up on the shores of Florida tangled in a crab trap. The dolphin, known as Winter, is brought to a Marine Hospital and treated by a group of specialists. Despite their best efforts, Winter loses her tail, and the hospital is left with the task of caring for a dolphin who can’t swim and has seemingly lost the will to even try.

The Art

The film is well made. The acting – especially from the children – is fantastic. The score is well done and, where I noticed it, was beautiful. There were a couple of shots which were fairly obviously designed for the 3D release, but nothing too outlandish was done. Sets were well constructed and well demolished, too, when the time came for that.

The Good

The willingness to sacrifice one’s time, money, and efforts to save the life of a friend, even when that friend is an animal was a main theme in this film. The main characters (with one exception) refuse to give up on Winter, even when it looks like the very effort of recovering from her disability will cause her further harm. This willingness to reach out to and help others with disabilities is extended to humans as well, as Winter is used to encourage people who have suffered from disabilities.

The film also included some excellent examples of true friendship without any inappropriate teen/preteen love affair. The relationships between the dophin’s caretakers is a joy to watch. Another theme the film dealt with is overcoming your pride and living life to the fullest – even with a disability.

It was also interesting that the film makes the point that sitting in a classroom all day is not necessarily the best way to learn but that actually doing something of value can be a much more fun and meaningful way to learn.

I was also pleased with the costumes. A film set on the coast of Florida with swimming as a main aspect of the story could have been a mess! However, there were very few instances of immodesty and none involved swim suits. The employees at the Marine Hospital wear very modest suits that look more like diving clothes than a modern swim suit. That being said…

The Bad

There are a few scenes involving shirtless men and a couple low-cut dresses. One use of the D-word is present in the soundtrack. The hero is disrespectful towards his mother in one scene and, while they are reconciled, he doesn’t ask her forgiveness.

Also worth noting is some bad theology – a character tells an old Indian legend about the creation of dolphins and a young girl prays to her mother. It’s not a major part of the story and a discerning audience will easily catch it as false, but it is worth stopping and explaining to young children that dolphins weren’t created when playing children fell off a rainbow bridge and prayer should be addressed to God alone.

In Conclusion

Dolphin Tale is a good, (mostly) clean story which can be enjoyed by people of all ages. While I was skeptical at first, I quickly grew to enjoy the heartwarming and encouraging tale of Winter’s recovery and the changes it brought to a small group of people on the coast of Florida and eventually, to people across the United States.

To learn more about the real Winter, check out

    • Kaitlyn E.
    • March 19th, 2012

    I loved this movie! Thanks for reviewing it, Jeffrey.

      • Jeffrey French
      • March 24th, 2012

      No problem!

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