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Review: Dolphin Tale - Ordinary Package, Excellent Film
See more reviews by Greg Wright, Contributing Writer
Dolphin Tale DVDAfter I screened Dolphin Tale prior to its theatrical release, I told the publicists coordinating the Clearwater, Florida junket that the film was "polished, inspiring, and moving," adding that "there's almost always room in our world for cynicism, but this film just about squeezes it all out." I stand by that, and also what I added in my formal review of the film:
I can tell you precisely the moment it won me over, completely. I won't, though, as it might spoil that magical sequence for you. But go see the film, and I bet you a fin you can pick out that scene in a heartbeat. It's an inspired, thrilling bit of filmmaking that invokes Carroll Ballard's The Black Stallion.

I was also thrilled with the chance I got to interview director Charles Martin Smith, and it was illuminating to gain insight into how the diminutive actor who portrayed Terry the Toad in American Graffiti came to helm big-budget Hollywood films:

Having grown up with an artist as a father, I was always fascinated by the Impressionists and the post-Impressionists—and the difference between the ones who concentrated on landscapes, and the ones who felt like there was nothing worth painting except humans. You know, the people who did portraits: Toulouse Lautrec's studies, and Degas: how they would study people, and what they were like, as opposed to the others who were doing landscapes, largely. Which is more valid? I don't know; they're both valid, I suppose. But it's the connection between the two that I find the most interesting.

And I was dead right that this was a good film, and that it would be difficult even for hard-nosed, jaded reviewers to pan it.  The critics' score at Rotten Tomatoes stands at 83% fresh... two points higher than the audience score of 81% fresh, a rarity.  And the "Top Critics" score is even higher at 88% fresh.  Not bad for a film that amounts, at a certain level, to an animal version of an illness-of-the-week TV movie.

The story succeeds, however, in part because the dolphin Winter actually exists, actually did lose her tail to a crab trap, actually did survive, actually does inspire disabled children and vets in her home at a Clearwater aquarium, and even stars in her own biopic.  It also succeeds because Smith and company craft a sensitive, believable, and affecting fiction of childhood loss regained around Winter's truly tall tale.

I was very excited, then, to have a chance to get a look at the bonus material on the Blu-ray release of Dolphin Tale.  After all, I thoroughly enjoyed the time I got to spend talking with cast and crew while I was in Florida.  This could only be more of the same, right?

Well, no, not really.  The special features on this home video release are really quite run-of-the-mill and nothing you couldn't find on YouTube.  There's only one really memorable moment in the bloopers, and the lone deleted scene is interesting... but, uh, lone.

The real reason to get this on DVD or Blu-ray is the film itself—and that's reason enough.  If you haven't seen the film yet and are looking for a great family night at the movies—or even if you're an adult who still takes delight in goodness—get a copy, rent it, or stream it.  The odds are very poor you'll be disappointed.

Dolphin Tale is rated PG for "some mild thematic elements."  Animal peril?  Disabled veterans?  What an awfully vague statement of ratings.  But it's accurate, I think, if a little overly cautious.

Courtesy of a national publicist, Greg screened a promotional copy of Dolphin Tale.

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