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Dolphin Tale 2

by on September 10, 2014
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Dolphin Tale 2

My experience with “Dolphin Tale 2” can best be summed up like this: My kids loved the first one. We’ve watched it together on Blu-ray many times. But I remember very little of it beyond the basic premise of a dolphin named Winter with a prosthetic tail.

Seriously, it wasn’t until close to the end of the sequel, when the first human amputee shows up (at least who isn’t part of the main cast) that I remembered the most emotional part of the first film, where Winter inspired all of these amputee children. I may have shed a tear or two then, and I may have this time as well, but it struck me that I didn’t really think about it until that moment.

Both of these films are based on the true story of Winter, the dolphin who, after being caught in a net, lost her tail. The marine rescue center that found her eventually fit her with a prosthetic that allowed her to swim normally.

The second film picks up a few years later. The park is doing well, but there’s one big problem: Winter has to have a female companion, or the government will confiscate her and relocate her to another facility. This is, of course, most distressing to Winter’s best friends, Sawyer (Nathan Gamble) and Hazel (Cozi Zuelsdorff), who are both now trusted volunteers at the park.

The whole scenario seems manufactured. Of course, as with the first film, we see real-life footage that proves this is a true story, and I admit I have no idea if the central conflict is real or made for the movies, but it feels like a ploy to justify the existence of a sequel rather than an organic follow-up.

That may or may not fall at the feet of director Charles Martin Smith, who returns for this film. I interviewed him when the first movie came out, and he seems like a nice enough guy, but I have to admit he brought little in the way of directorial flair to either of these films (except perhaps for one sequence in the first film as they designed Winter’s new tail).

In this film especially, everyone pretty much trudges around mostly agonizing over whether Sawyer will accept a prestigious internship that will put him out to sea for six months, away from the facility and his increasingly unstable aquatic mammal friend.

There’s also something of a muted romance between Hazel and Sawyer, some G-rated sexual tension as Sawyer begins attracting the attention of girls. There’s not much payoff, but for a film like this there really can’t be with romantic leads of this age.

Virtually everyone from the first film returns, from Ashley Judd and Harry Connick Jr. as the parents to Morgan Freeman as the guy who builds the magic legs to Smith himself, who plays the guy who would take Winter. Most of them have little to do but play out run-of-the-mill scenes, running around in service of the plot. Shoehorned in is Bethany Hamilton, who had a similar movie made about her life, “Soul Surfer.” It almost feels like Hallmark is making a based-on-a-true-story movie universe.

“Dolphin Tale 2” is mostly maudlin and boring, with a few genuinely touching moments that mostly come about because they are recreations of real events. You’ll leave the theater with a pleasant feeling, but in the end you won’t remember much of what you saw.

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