When his cousin (Stowell) flies out for service, Sawyer Nelson (Gamble) feels lost. Struggling to find focus during the summer holidays, despite enforced classes at school, it’s not until a chance encounter cycling to school one day, that he at last finds something he can be passionate about. Caught in a crab trap and washed ashore off Florida’s Indian River, Sawyer helps cut an injured dolphin free, before vets from the local marine centre take it in for care. Christened Winter, Sawyer starts visiting the injured dolphin, quickly developing a special bond with the animal, though when its damaged tailfin has to be removed, she needs Sawyer’s help more than ever.
After his cousin returns home from service through injury, Sawyer is introduced to prosthetics expert Dr. McCarthy (Freeman), and alongside with a big fundraising event, hopes of creating a new fin to attach to Winter’s tail prove to be her only hope of survival.
Though Dolphin Tale is certainly much more targeting at kids, it might surprise a few adults too, as despite the hugely predictable plot arcs, it’s easy to be sucked in. Based on a true story, it’s no surprise the characters are grounded and believable, and on top, especially from the two young leads Nathan Gamble and Cozi Zuehlsdorff, there’s a ensemble performance from the cast a whole.
As the inventive doctor too, Morgan Freeman puts in an entertaining shift, funnily quite similar to his portrayal of Lucius Fox in the Batman series.
Dolphin Tale is an endearing tale of family, friendship and fighting for what you believe in. As the characters creep up on you, holding a surprising emotional weight by the time the credits roll in, the film gets away without feeling overly clichéd, even though it’s such an obvious story of fighting against adversity. It’s not a classic, but it’s a well-meaning and entertaining film for all the family.