Top of my mind was how Winter the dolphin, which this film is inspired by and telling the story of its remarkable rehabilitation at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, had to act as herself and go through what would be a traumatic incident involving a crab net being entangled around her body, which caused the lack of blood circulation at its tail and its eventual amputation. It's no fun for a human actor to go through that especially if to tell his own story involving the loss of a limb, and I suppose for an animal it's no fun as well. Which is why there's a growing concern about the welfare of dolphins that's gaining momentum post The Cove, and seriously with the animal's natural smile you may think that everything's A-OK.
But I digress. If anything, Dolphin Tale serves up a counter point for aquariums to exist, if not for human intervention to rescue the dolphin when it was being beached, then to rehabilitate and the pooling of available resources to think out of the box and provide a solution to what would be life threatening since it involves the using of existing body structures to adapt for the absence of the crucial tail, but in doing so will result in permanent damage leading to death due to its unnatural movement. Enough scenes like these to tug at your heartstrings, especially since Winter the dolphin, like any other dolphin, comes across as intelligent, playful, and blessed with that adorable look that will delight any kid who's here to watch this film, which ironically will translate to increased demands for dolphin aquariums.
Directed by Charles Martin Smith who has experience in directing another animal-kid buddy show in Air Bud, Dolphin Tale is extremely family friendly with its themes of courage and family ties, with nary a swear word uttered and plenty of feel good moments inserted. In some ways it is the true life story about Winter the Dolphin that inspires and gives strength to those who are at the crossroads of denial and acceptance, especially with a limb loss. To say it's not easy to cope is an understatement, but as far as rehabilitation goes, it's no wonder how the dolphin was able to show others that life still goes on, and allowed a little bit of advanced research to go into prosthetics making.
As much as we learn from animals, they learn from us humans too, and for the fortunate few who could get into close proximity to rub off some of the positive aspects and optimism into life. It's a story here about the Haskett and the Nelson family, with each side facing a loss of a family member, and how through Winter they bond in most unexpected ways. Nathan Gamble plays Sawyer, an introverted boy who would grow to get out of his shell thanks to his finding of Winter and the zeal to want to make her better, now under the care of Dr Clay Haskett (Harry Connick Jr) and his young daughter Hazel (Cozi Zuehlsdorff). And the cast of Ashley Judd who plays Nathan's mom, Kris Kristofferson as Hazel's granddad, and Morgan Freeman as Dr Cameron McCarthy who got roped in by Sawyer to assist pro-bono in applying his expertise in prosthetics to design something for the dolphin, all add in the star factor of the film, although it is the kid actors who adequately carry the weight of this film on their shoulders.
While the film doesn't throw up any surprises since the trailer would have shown the outcome, and if you were to do research you would chance upon the website of Winter the Dolphin and of Clearwater Marine Aquarium, it still worked plenty of wonders in knowing just where to reach out within you and amplify some heartwarming emotions. Stay tuned during the end credits to witness the actual video footage of the amazing rescue and rehabilitation of Winter.