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Movie Review: ‘Dolphin Tale 2’

by Bob Garver

Sept. 15, 2014. 2011’s “Dolphin Tale” told the story of Winter, a rescued dolphin who was missing her tail. The humans around her worked tirelessly to help and in the process they learned to help themselves. Needless to say, it was a super cheesy movie, the sort of cutesy inspirational fluff that adults have seen countless times (including “Air Bud” by the same director) but kids probably enjoy when it’s new to them. Now comes “Dolphin Tale 2” which is pretty much more of the same.

imgresThe conflicts this time are a little less urgent. Winter’s tank mate, a 40-year-old dolphin named Panama passes away. Government regulations require captive female dolphins like Winter to be paired with other females, and her human friends have 30 days to find her a new buddy or else their aquatic center will lose its star attraction and they’ll lose their muse.

Winter can’t be paired up with just any female dolphin. The center is technically a rehab facility, so anything that’s healthy enough to be released into the ocean is out. It also can’t be one that’s freaked out by her prosthetic tail. Or one that might attack her. Or one that she might attack. I know there are legitimate reasons for being picky, but I can’t help but think that the humans worry a little too much about indulging the animals. You won’t find the police chiefs in buddy cop movies worrying much about potential partners being compatible.

The human cast remains about the same. You’ve got Winter’s teenage handler Sawyer (Nathan Gamble) and his supportive mother Lorraine (Ashley Judd). Dr. Clay Haskett (Harry Connick Jr.) runs the aquatic center with his daughter Hazel (Cozi Zuehlsdorff) and his father Reed (Kris Kristofferson). And Morgan Freeman is back as a prosthetics developer who serves the all-important function of saying things in Morgan Freeman’s voice.

The film’s comedy is forgettable at best. The film loves its gags where people get splashed or fall into water. It also expects us to laugh at the antics of a pesky pelican named Rufus. Actually, we’re not even supposed to laugh at his antics, we’re supposed to laugh at him for just showing up. I’m sure the animal trainers for this movie worked really hard on Rufus, but he isn’t inherently funny.

There’s a lot of drama for the sake of drama. Dr. Clay and the kids get in a huge fight over whether to release a healthy dolphin or pair her up with winter (Hazel argues her point with an annoying “scream and run away” approach followed by an even more annoying “mature” approach). Sawyer might go on a three-month study abroad program, but how can he leave with Winter in trouble? Dr. Clay somehow has to keep the business alive with investors and the government breathing down his neck. Losing Panama causes Winter to go berserk: she won’t eat, she injured Sawyer and she once again rejects her prosthetic tail, rehashing the central conflict of the first movie. There’s a story line about the team rescuing a turtle that never really goes anywhere and teases of a romance between Sawyer and Hazel that never really goes anywhere. All this is to distract us from the fact that the search for a new companion for Winter just isn’t that interesting.

I can’t imagine people getting much out of “Dolphin Tale 2” unless they really like dolphins or marine biology. To be fair, I can see the potential of the animal and science-centric scenes and I suppose the emphasis on hard work is a good thing, especially for kids. But anybody who has seen one of these inspirational animal movies before is going to know exactly where the story is going. Therefore, the target audience for the film is kids who are too young to have ever seen an inspirational animal movie before. In fact, if they’ve seen the first, slightly better “Dolphin Tale,” that alone might make them too jaded.

One and a half stars out of five.