Follow Genre: Family
Director: Charles Martin Smith
Distributor: Warner Home Videos
Duration: 102 minutes

Dolphin Tale 2 (DVD) – Movie Review

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Good: Good family fun, dolphins
Bad: Stays pretty shallow, doesn't surprise
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Heartwarming stories about teenagers rescuing wounded animals have long been a staple of cinema, especially since the success of Free Willy. Dolphin Tale, released in 2011, was such a hit that it even inspired a sequel, continuing the story of the friendship between a boy and a dolphin. What makes this film even more special is that it is based on a real life story.

dolphin-tale-2-bannerIn Dolphin Tale, the predecessor of this sequel, we were introduced to Winter, a dolphin who was caught in a fisherman’s net. The animal is brought to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA), a non-profit organization whose mission it is to rescue wounded sea animals and restore their health in order to release them once more into the wild. Winter’s tail is heavily damaged however and the rescuers had to amputate it, creating a need for a prosthetic device to replace the missing limb. At the end of Dolphin Tale, the dolphin receives a prosthetic and can once again swim freely.

In the sequel we skip three years forward and Sawyer (Nathan Gamble) – the 14 year old who originally saved Winter – is still working at the CMA, where he takes care of his friend. He has made a lot of progress in maturing and becoming more outgoing and because of his work with the dolphin, he gets an invite to an elite Sea Education Association program. This means he’ll be on a boat for three months, studying animals in the wild and earning credits for his schoolwork. While this sounds pretty awesome, he starts doubting the whole endeavor when Winter loses her companion, a dolphin named Panama. Winter becomes lethargic and depressed and Sawyer feels that he needs to be at her side to cheer her up. His mom (Ashley Judd) and friends Hazel (Cozi Zuehlsdorff) and Kyle (Austin Stowell) think he should take full advantage of this chance, but understand his dilemma. When Dr. Clay Haskett (Harry Connick, Jr.) learns that the government might take away Winter because of her mental state, things are looking very dark for Sawyer and his friends.

dolphin-tale-2-1Dolphin Tale 2 is a very safe film, which makes it suitable for all ages. While the characters must deal with some genuine issues, the story always keeps its upbeat tone and you can constantly feel the guarantee of a happy ending. The critique that it sounds like a very unoriginal story is done away with the fact that it is based on real events. It does however dramatize thing quite a lot, in an attempt to pull some cheap heartstrings.

One of the biggest challenges for the feature were of course the dolphins themselves. This is an old school animal film, meaning that there is no CGI and that the animals are real. To make it even better, Winter is actually played by the real life Winter, demonstrating that the dolphin is in good health and quite intelligent. The animals do their work in an outstanding manner, leaving the human cast to keep up.

With a very young cast, this is quite often a challenge. Luckily for Dolphin Tale 2, Nathan Gamble and Cozi Zuehlsdorff manage not to be the standard annoying teen actor and hold their own in the film. Ashley Judd does not have a lot of screen time, but does the needful every time she is on. The biggest issue is Harry Connick, Jr., who is most famous because of his singing career and feels like a pretty one note character. Luckily, the film adds Morgan Freeman for about three scenes, which is always a good idea. Now truthfully, Freeman doesn’t really do a lot in this one, but just his presence is enough to elevate the quality of the scenes he is in.


The biggest flaw of the film is the way it is shot. The cinematography looks very bland, it’s always a shame when a full feature film isn’t shot any better than most current television series. Luckily, Dolphin Tale 2 also has one big plus, it ends with real footage of the dramatized events, meaning we get to see the rescue of a dolphin and the normal behavior of our protagonists. Strangely enough, it also shows that fiction and reality aren’t that far away from each other after all, making the film mean that much more.


Dolphin Tale 2 is a feel good family film, with cool animals and a well-intended meaning. The actors, while given a pretty limited script, do their best to keep the quality high, but the film never surprises or offers something extra. What you see is what you get with this one, and while that might not be much, it’s still a decent effort.

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