Major box office hits are ripe for sequels, but no one expected another installment of Dolphin Tale. The story had centered on the real life rescue and recovery of the baby dolphin Winter who lost her tail. It became bigger than a mere animal adventure when the development of a prosthetic tail brought about the invention of Winter’s gel which now benefits humans with prosthetic limbs.
But a sequel? That would need more real-life inspiration. And so it is. Dolphin Tale 2 continues the drama with the rescue of another orphaned baby dolphin—Hope.
When an elderly dolphin at CMA dies, Winter shuts down over the loss. Federal law requires that she have another companion. Charles Martin Smith, who directed both films and wrote the script for Dolphin Tale 2, plays the inspector. He’s nice enough but becomes the protagonist because enforcing regulations might mean sending the beloved Winter elsewhere. The rescue of another baby dolphin brings Hope for another companion—thus becoming her name. But dolphins don’t always follow game plans and so the plot thickens.
The sequel reunites the original main cast at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) in Florida. Three years have passed since Winter’s rescue. The children, Sawyer, played by Nathan Gamble and Hazel, played by Cozi Zuehlsdorff, have passed gracefully from childhood into their mid-teens. Hazel has developed an obvious crush on Sawyer that thankfully never tampers with their friendship. Duel plots develop around Winter’s questionable future at the CMA and Sawyer’s quandary whether to leave for a semester at sea in a prestigious marine study program at a time when Winter needs him most.
Harry Connick, Jr., plays veterinarian Dr. Clay Haskett, and father to Hazel giving her latitude to grow up and resolve conflicts on her own. Ashley Judd, as Lorraine Nelson, Sawyer’s mother, exemplifies the love of letting go and even nudging just a little.
The return of Morgan Freeman’s character, the doctor that helped develop Winter’s prosthetic tail, and Kris Kristofferson as Dr. Clay’s father, play minor but sage characters, passing on their wisdom without being corny. And the reunion would not have been complete without Rufus the pesky pelican, a delight as much for his antics as for the unlikelihood of being a character actor.
Dolphin Tale 2, although not overtly religious, imparts lessons in respect throughout. It’s a squeaky clean family film that departs from the typical movies starring teens where disrespect passes for humor.
Underwater cinematography is breathtakingly beautiful and meshes with the movie’s gentler feel. There was no 3-D version this go-around which allowed Pete Zuccarini working with world-renowned marine photographer and cinematographer Bob Talbot, the ease of capturing underwater scenes including pro surfer Bethany Hamilton (playing herself in a brief appearance) swimming with Winter.
At the end are clips of the actual events and scenes of disabled children coming to the aquarium to see Winter. It is this real-life ending of excited children and even a couple of disabled vets that testify to the popularity of the first Dolphin Tale and the Hope for Dolphin Tale 2.
Dolphin Tale 2 opens in theaters September 12, 2014. It is rated PG and runs 1 hour 47 minutes.
A special bonus with this movie is the homeschool curriculum that can be downloaded for free by anyone.
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