Monday, September 15, 2014

Cinema Won Reviews: "Dolphin Tale 2"

Winter's amazing true stories...
now has Hope!

      Dolphin Tale 2 is a 2014 sequel to the original 2011 movie, apparently based on a true story of the dolphin with a prosthetic tail. This time around, Sawyer (Nathan Gamble) has got it made. He's got a good job working for Clay (Harry Connick Jr.) with Phoebe (Austin Highsmith) and Winter (Winter the Dolphin), he's best friends with Hazel (Cozi Zuehlsdorff) and he's just been offered a free ride to a semester a sea. But when Winter's companion dolphin dies, Sawyer and the rest of the marine hospital races to find a female dolphin to pair with Winter or else she'll be taken away from them. The film also stars Ashley Judd as Sawyer's mother, Morgan Freeman as the prosthetist, Kris Kristofferson as Clay's father, Austin Stowell as Sawyer's cousin and Bethany Hamilton as herself. The film was written and directed by Charles Martin Smith (Air Bud).

Pictured: Dolphin. Not pictured: Tale.
     You know, I wasn't looking forward to this one all that much. Shocking, I know. I may just not be within the target audience for a sequel to Dolphin Tale. But, it was the only new release in my theater this week and per the rules, I had to see it.
      And first off, that meant I had to see the original. And yeah, the first Dolphin Tale isn't that good. Now, to be fair, there's nothing really wrong with it. It's a generic kids movie, so at it's worst it's just pretty dull. The main problem is that, while the story of Winter is genuinely interesting and inspiring, it's probably best explored as an hour long documentary on Animal Planet. There just isn't that much story to cover a feature length movie. And yet, somehow, the original clocks in at nearly 2 hours long. Mostly, that's thanks to the addition of new story elements, including that classic, "The beloved (insert relevant location) just isn't making money, so unless we can beat the odds and raise the money, it's going to close."
      Dolphin Tale 2 benefits from having a far, far better story than its predecessor. Granted, it's not a great story. But here, the movie actually decides to explore the characters more, which isn't a bad development. The way the film tackles the main characters growing up is done well. Or at least it's not overdone. Between Sawyer's tough decision to leave for three months, Hazel's attempt to be taken seriously or the two's kinda sorta growing romance, the film at least is able to fill it's hour and 40 minute runtime a lot more smoothly.
      The story of Winter and Hope is also interesting. This film plays more with the actual marine biology aspect of the story and, while I'm not sure on the accuracy, the deals with the dolphins is far more interesting. Seeing the actual rescues and healing process in (better) detail gets a little more emotion out that anything the previous film did and I actually cared about Winter and Hope this time. Yeah, it's predictable and cliched, but the ending did bring a smile to my face.
      My face wasn't smiling as much though when the film, not kidding here, actually redid the story of the hospital closing. Yeah, already running out of ideas. This time it's not quite as bad though. It takes up way less of the movie, even if it leads to basically the same climax as the last movie. Plus, it is looked at more from the side of "What will happen to the animals?" and not "Oh no. Just, oh no!".
      There are unfortunately other problems with the film. This time around, the writer played up the "humor" way more and it's usually, especially when dealing with that dumb bird thing, really lame. The effects aren't any better this time around. While they don't resort to CGI as much this time around, which is nice, when they do, it's pretty damn bad. Like a particularly awful looking balloon arch.
      The acting isn't as good this time around either. Freeman has way less to do here than before and doesn't seem all the excited to return. He seems only to be here so people won't complain he's not. Gamble do has become retroactively miscast here. The film requires him to be more confident this time around and Gamble just can't do it, resulting in him sound a bit, you know, annoying. And overall, like the last one, the film really just isn't anything special. There are hundreds of other kids movies out there and while this one isn't one of the worst, it's certainly not good enough.

They now realize the seafood BBQ was not
a good fundraising idea.
The Verdict

      Dolphin Tale 2 is far better that it's predecessor, but it's still not worth making a point to see it. While the film finds a better, more varied story that's more interesting than the last and some good character development, the film still can't overcome it's cliched mediocrity, thanks to a lame sense of humor, some bad effects and acting and a lack of originality. Overall, while kids might enjoy this one more that the one before it, Dolphin Tale 2 just can't offer anything that adults will find interesting. Unless watching a turtle and a bird bond is your idea of fun. Dolphin Tale 2 gets 3 and a half stars out of 6.

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