Once in a while, a story comes along that manages to inspire audiences. Young and old have the opportunity to sit back and watch a film that has a healing influence on the soul. This movie, which is based on actual events, manages to melt hearts by telling the story of a boy and his dolphin.
DOLPHIN TALE begins with young Sawyer (Nathan Gamble) discovering a dolphin on his hometown beach that is tangled up in a crab trap. The trainers from Clearwater Marine Aquarium are called to save the day. The baby dolphin is given the name Winter and she is cared for around the clock. It isn’t until she reacquaints herself with Sawyer that she begins to show some sign of recovery. Sadly, there has been too much damage to her tail and the only option is amputation. That doesn’t stop Winter from fighting. With Sawyer and Dr. Clay’s (Harry Connick, Jr.) help, Winter teaches herself to swim and play like a normal dolphin. But after several weeks of physical therapy, Dr. Clay discovers that Winter’s new way of swimming is actually hindering her well being. The absence of her tail will eventually lead to death.
Devastated, Sawyer accompanies his mother (Ashley Judd) to the VA hospital to visit his wounded cousin who is being fit for a leg brace and it occurs to him to ask Dr. McCarthy (Morgan Freeman) to make a prosthetic tail for his dolphin. Dr. McCarthy is just crazy enough to give it a try. After countless prototypes, Winter finds a suitable match and is given a new lease on life.
I’m a sucker for any movie that shows the spirit and courageous effort of an animal. You can’t help but be moved to see the actual, real life Winter fluttering about across your screen. This is where DOLPHIN TALE truly shined. She was such an inspiration to everyone, particularly those who have experienced amputation.
There is a charming moment in which Sawyer is stopped by a woman in the Aquarium parking lot, asking if she and her daughter can visit Winter. Sawyer invites them to join him and is surprised to see that the little girl is wheel chair bound. Once she sees Winter without her tail, she exclaims, “Look Mama! She’s just like me.” If you didn’t cry at that part, you need to check your heart. I was a blubbering mess. Charles Martin Smith keeps the waterworks coming with an entire montage of actual footage of amputees meeting Winter. It was glorious.
If I had one complaint, it would be that the opening scene was a bit on the cheesy side. It was clearly computer graphic animation of Winter before her accident. According to behind-the-scenes extra features on the Blu-ray, Smith thought it was important to introduce Winter as a normal happy dolphin with her pod before the accident. I thought it was unnecessary. With that said, DOLPHIN TALE is a wonderful film that is fun for the whole family. I’d recommend anyone watching and then logging on to SeeWinter.com to follow her activity and fame. It’s an amazing story of inspiration, love and survival. What more can you ask for?
Video: 1080p High Definition: The Aquarium scenes were really fascinating and rich in color. As I mentioned before, the animation at the beginning was questionable, but the story made up for it in so many ways.
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1: Excellent quality in the audio. Every little dolphin sound was perfectly magnified. I felt like I was right there with Winter.
The Hutash Rainbow Bridge (2:26): Dr. Clay tells a story about the Hutash tribe and how their kids fell off a rainbow and turned into dolphins. This story was animated into a short. Sort of creepy if you ask me.
At Home with Winter (13:22): This feature tells the story of Winter and how Warner Bros. promised to work within her limits. I thought it was interesting that the Aquarium used fake underwater cameras and boom mics to get her used to the activity in the water months before the real cameras showed up.
Dolphin Tale: Spotlight on a Scene (7:17): Charles Martin Smith explains the opening computer animated sequence where we meet Winter with her family and why he chose to include this in the story.
Winter’s Inspiration (18:05): This feature shows behind-the-scene footage of Winter’s rescue and physical therapy. It includes interviews with the men who came up with the prosthetic tail and rubber adhesive that goes on underneath. Ironically, Winter’s “gel” as it’s called is used in human prosthetics today.
Deleted Scene: Winter Meets Panama (2:21): Winter is put into a tank with Panama. They quickly become friends.
Gag Reel (2:49): There’s a lot of splashing that goes on in this gag reel! Also, Ashley Judd’s run in with a pelican is pretty funny.