Dolphin Tale 2 - Hope for Winter - 2.75 stars

Can Winter's tail provide an engaging tale for the family?

Walking into the cinema...
The anticipation of my nine-year-old daughter is high when going into see the sequel to Winter's tale. I have to hold back my scepticism for the next film that barely surpasses the 'after-school special' category. Will this film live up to the original or underwhelm the critic and his daughter? 

Cinematic value: 2 stars      Family value: 3.5 stars      Overall rating: 2.75

         After watching a film based on a 'true story', prior to the credits it is good to get those closing notes  about how things are now with the characters from the story. They provide some closure for the viewer. It is a whole different concept to introduce a sequel to a real life story. The idea is intriguing, but carries with it a level of scepticism, even though the likelihood of more drama occurring at Clearwater Marine Aquarium does seem realistic. Dolphin Tale 2 makes room for the next chapter of the lives of the original characters. When tragedy strikes at the aquarium, a captivating family adventure ensues. Six years have progressed since the original tale, Winter has become the primary drawcard for the tourist destination. The drama begins in the waters of the aquarium and an unfortunate event occurs that puts the dolphin's placement at the aquarium in jeopardy. Also, drama continues outside of the water, Sawyer Nelson (Nathan Gamblehas grown into a minor celebrity in the community. He is a key figure at the popular animal rescue mission, but is wrestling with the proposal to go on a special oceanographical expedition. Dr Haskett (Harry Connick Jr) has to contend with the maturing of the children of the original film. He has to contend with the growth of the aquatic mission, the roles of the young people who have a vested interest in the park and Winter's welfare and finally mentoring them in how they will need to make adult decisions. Then to add to the storyline, the centre must grapple with the challenges of governmental pressure that threaten the welfare of Winter. Drama occurs in and out of the water and makes for a fresh tale for the familiar cast. All of the cast of characters have come back plus new minor roles that complement the story. The story is familiar and predictable, but makes for an inspiring drama. 
         All one has to do is look at the promotional posters and know the story is a forgone conclusion, but that does not diminish the value of the film. Returning director  manages to maintain the needed dramatic tension to keep advancing the story, as well as make an appearance in the film. True to life stories like Dolphin Tale 2 do not conjure up cinematic breakthroughs, but they do offer inspirational stories for the whole family. In a season with very few options for the family, DT2 will fill a void for this audience and delivers a captivating, non-offensive story. Harry Connick Jr and Ashley Judd (Tooth Fairy) lead the adult cast with journeyman performances. They are comfortable in their roles and seem to understand that they are not there to break new ground, but to support the story. The central human characters of the film are the youth of the film and they give admirable performances. Their characters add to the emotion of the storyline, but their  key contributions occur with the dolphins and other marine life. Finally, every good inspirational tale needs a senior statesmen who adds pearls of wisdom. Returning in these cameo roles  are  and  and they fill these roles well. Fortunately, the real drama is in the water with the sea animals and the story is not reliant on great thespian performances. 
            A surprising and refreshing element of Dolphin Tale 2 is what is not in the film. Smith does not use this film to make an environmental or conservationist message, he stays to the inspirational story of the dolphins, Winter and Hope. As the director, he seems to understand that there was no need to preach to the audience, but allows the story to unfold and inspire on its own merits. That being said, the strength of this film does feed into it's weakness. Carrying the family-friendly label will cause many to give this film a miss. The acting and direction gives it an 'after school special' feel, but as a true story it is captivating. Minus many of the realities of real life, such as rough language issues, does diminish the plausibility of the story, but not the value of the story telling. Another minor flaw of the film is in the poor CGI effects. In this era of amazing CGI usage, some of the special effects that involve the dolphins were very parochial and could have used some fine tuning. To expect that this film is not going to win any significant awards for film making and the film makers seem realistic in their delivery of the film. One area of note, this film is a rare film that gets a higher family rating than quality rating, but that should not deter people from going. Dolphin Tale 2 will meet a need in the market and will provide good entertainment for anyone in the family.  
Leaving the cinema...
Holding my daughter's hand as we were walking out of the film, I asked her what she thought of the movie. Unexpectedly she started in on the positives and the negatives of the film, which should not surprise me as a critic's daughter. I stopped her and asked, "Honey, did you like it?" The response was an emphatic, "Yes!" That shows that the filmmakers know their market and delivered a film that will be enjoyable for the family. 

What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film? 
1. Who created all of the creatures of this film?  (Genesis 1:1-31, John 1:1)
2. What is our responsibility to care for the animals of this earth? (Genesis 1:26, Ecc. 3:19)
3. Where is real hope found? (Romans 8:24-25, Hebrews 11:1,7)

Written by Russell Matthews based on a five star rating system @ Russelling Reviews #russellingreviews