A Dolphin Tale as reviewed in The Phantom Tollbooth A fictional account of a true story almost too good to be true. But it is.

Stars: Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd,  Harry Connick Jr., Kris Kristofferson
Director: Charles Martin Smith
Scriptwriters: Karen Janszen and Noam Dromi
Original Music: mark Isham
Film Company" Alcon Entertainment
Running Length: 113 min.
Rating: PG for some mile thematic elements

Dolphin Tale is heart warming and emotionally moving which totally negated my initial assumptions that it would be sappy and just another predictable kid movie. I was familiar with the true story of Winter, a Dolphin who was rescued from a fishing trap only to lose her tail. But how do you make that into a movie that is entertaining and inspiring? For starters you create a story around it that doesn't distract from the real message or take away from what a truly special animal Winter is.

Sawyer (Nathan Gamble) is an introverted kid being raised by a single mom (Ashley Judd). When he helps rescue a trapped dolphin he comes out of his shell through the process of helping in the recovery of Winter. Dr. Clay Haskett (Harry Connick Jr.) runs the facility that helps in the rescue, rehab and release of marine animals. When it becomes apparent that Winter needs a new tail to survive they enlist the help of Dr. McCarthy (Morgan Freeman) a local doctor who creates artificial limbs for war veterans.

The basics of this film are true. I had a chance to tour the actual rehab center in Clearwater Fl and see some of the incredible work that these people are doing. While there I met Winter and saw the tail made specifically for her. For this film those nonfictional elements were wrapped in a fabricated story of Sawyer and his journey. In real life, Winter has been such an inspiration to handicapped children who come to visit the rehab center. In the film this is portrayed through Sawyers cousin Kyle (Austin Stowell) who is injured in the war and under the care of Dr. McCarthy.

The filmmakers where smart to allow Winter to be the star of this film. There are so many predictable moments that could have taken place and that I almost expected. But the film instead keeps the focus on inspiring the viewers. This is such a perfect film for the preteen movie goers. Mixed with humor and characters that will motivate them to reach out and get involved with those around them. It is impossible to watch this and not be captivated by not only Winter, but the impact she has on young Sawyer.

The acting from the kids in this one is solid. Gamble's character goes through an emotional transformation that he handles like a pro. The sullen and withdrawn Sawyer we see at first is a 180 from the outwardly motivated one we end up with.That range of emotion is a tough accomplishment for some adult seasoned actors. Cozi Zuehlsdorff plays Hazel, the young daughter of Dr. Haskett. She is bubbly and charismatic with not a hint of timidity. She is the perfect on-screen mate for Gamble and they are very cute together.

This film is rated PG for some mild thematic elements. I assume that the ratings board thought that the scene with Kyle at the Veterans hospital might be a little heavy. Other than that I am hard pressed to think why this is not rated G. It is such a perfect film for all ages. It is timeless in its ability to stir the heart and lift the spirit. I give it 4 out of 5 buckets of fish. For a family film involving animals and kids it far exceeds anything I have seen in the past.


Review copyright 2011 Mungleshow Productions. Used by Permission.