As the opening credits roll, we witness Winter (the marine mammal portrays herself) gallivanting in her element, under the sea in the Gulf Coast. When Winter becomes entangled in a crab trap and is beached, Sawyer (Nathan Gamble) contacts Dr. Clay’s (Harry Connick Jr.) Animal Hospital. The patient survives, but with the loss of her flipper.
Nonetheless, the animal rescue is a turning point for Sawyer, who is a shy student failing summer school. After much consternation from his mother (Ashley Judd), Sawyer finds his niche in the marine world. When his wounded warrior cousin returns from the battlefield, Sawyer makes friends with Dr. Cameron McCarthy (Morgan Freeman), a man who specializes making prosthetic limbs. Together, Sawyer, Dr. Clay and Dr. Cameron pool their individual talents and create a special flipper for Winter.
Much like his previous motion pictures **Air Bud** and **Stone of Destiny,** Director Charlie Martin Smith creates personal movies about big subjects. While this movie bows to the concession of 3-D entertainment, **Dolphin Tale** provides a life affirming story about growth, maturity and community. With Martin-Smith’s sure hand, **Dolphin Tale** is a rollercoaster ride from the height of comedy to the depth of tragedy.
While Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman provide strong ensemble support, **Dolphin Tale** success falls on the shoulders of Nathan Gamble as Sawyer. For the first 15 minutes of the movie, Sawyer is a mumbling mess. When Sawyer finds acceptance from his single mother and Dr.Clay’s marine community, Gamble makes the transition believable.
Urban elitist critics have noted the mounting clichés in this motion picture; shy kid, injured animal, foreclosures, grumpy teachers….yet there was no denying the tears of joy from the ticket buying audience. The fact that **Dolphin Tale** was the Number #1 at the box office last weekend, reveals that movie consumers are hungry for such a life affirming motion picture.
**Dolphin Tale** is a gentle movie that approaches harsh subjects. As one little girl (perhaps 5 years old) whispered to her Momma, “This is a good movie.”