The most important word in the title? Tale.
The tale part of Dolphin Tale is a stretch. A big one. Here’s the truthful part of the story. Winter is an actual dolphin whose tail was irreparably damaged by a crab pot and had to be removed. The tail was replaced by a prosthetic designed by a team and not a crusty but wise old African-American engineer.
Winter’s story has inspired those with physical disabilities, those who have suffered limb loss and those with other physical and mental handicaps. That’s where the facts end and the fiction begins.
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Dolphin Tale’s “tale” has a young boy finding the dolphin on beach. Rescuers from a financially strapped aquarium take her to one of their pools. The dolphin doctoring doesn’t work. Winter grows listless and refuses to eat until the boy, curious about her condition, shows up.
They have bonded.
Later, when the dolphin loses her tail because of the crab pot trauma, the boy, whose cousin is back from war and in need of a prosthetic, talks the lead technician and engineer into doing one for Winter.
All of this is in glorious 3D, if you so choose.
Name stars Morgan Freeman, as the crusty old engineer, Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd and Kris Kristofferson do the majority of the supporting work. Kid actors Nathan Gamble and Cozi Zuehlsdorff do the heavy lifting but all suffer mightily from Karen Janszen and Noam Dromi’s horrible screenplay.
Director — and outstanding character actor — Charles Martin Smith directs. He’s a terrific director and wrote the narration for 1983’s outstanding Never Cry Wolf. Smith is able to overcome the dialogue limitations and schmaltz, and using a pesky pelican for comic relief, crafts a film that appeals to kids and families.
How can it not? Who doesn’t love dolphins?
Mr. Movie rating: 3 1/2 stars
Rated PG for mature themes. It opens Friday at the Carmike 12, the Fairchild Cinemas 12 and at the Grand Cinemas Walla Walla.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.