Dolphin Tale 2

by Charles Nash

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday September 12, 2014

Nathan Gamble and Cozi Zuehlsdorff star in 'Dolphin Tale 2'
Nathan Gamble and Cozi Zuehlsdorff star in 'Dolphin Tale 2'  (Source:Alcon Entertainment)

As a 23-year-old aspiring cinephile that has a taste for bizarre, often macabre pictures, such as films directed by David Lynch, Brian De Palma and David Cronenberg among others, "Dolphin Tale 2" was not exactly a movie I had much interest in seeing.

In fact, I hadn't even watched the initial sleeper-hit from 2011 until I had been assigned to review this sequel, which I (cynically) assumed would be a shameless cash-grab based upon my first impressions from its marketing campaign.

And yet, I'm astonished to say that not only did the original "Dolphin Tale" delightfully win me over, despite its sometimes suffocating abundance of corniness, but that this second installment is equally as uplifting as its predecessor, even with its heavier dosage of sickly-sweet montages and clunky scenes of exposition.

Granted, these films are clearly aimed at a younger crowd of filmgoers who still have to ask their parents to bring them to the theater and pay for their tickets, but even as someone who's above the age of twelve and has no children as of yet, both of these films have such big, bolstering hearts that they're just too sincere for me to completely dismiss.

The entire ensemble of actors from the first film all reprise their roles here, including Nathan Gamble (most widely recognized for playing James Gordon Jr. in "The Dark Knight") as Sawyer Nelson, who, in the first film, found his passion for saving marine wildlife after helping Dr. Clay Haskett (Harry Connick Jr.) and his daughter, Hazel (Cozy Zuehlsdorff) rescue a beached dolphin after it was brutally injured in a crab trap, resulting in the amputation of its tail.

I'm astonished to say... that this second installment is equally as uplifting as its predecessor, even with its heavier dosage of sickly-sweet montages and clunky scenes of exposition.

Now, this noble group of environmental heroes has been financially successful enough to establish the Clearwater Marine Hospital, which is basically the anti-Seaworld. They take in wounded sea creatures, nurture them back to health, and release them back into the wild as soon as they're ready to move on, as opposed to keeping them in captivity for the mere sake of cultivating as high a profit from audiences as possible.

After a tragic incident involving one of the other dolphins results in Winter suffering from mood-swings as well as a severe form of depression, in which she refuses to eat or remain physically active, the employees of CMH are told that if Winter is not able to find a female companion to keep her company, this form of mental distress may become life-threatening. On top of that, these marine biologists still need to prioritize healing the various dolphins they've taken in to the point where they can return to their lives at sea, creating a surprisingly complex moral conundrum for everyone involved.

Based on the film's inspirational tone, it's clear that everything will turn out okay in the end, and its doubtful that any adult viewers will assume otherwise. But as a story that's designed for kids, this movie conveys important messages on the values of treating sea creatures as animals that belong in their natural habitat, as opposed to exotic pets that exist merely for our own entertainment.

The tone of the film is clearly constructed to connect with tots more than anyone else, but it never insults their intelligence, and while it may not have a certain appeal for parents (as something like the "Toy Story" series, or even "The Lego Movie" in terms of being dazzling pieces of filmmaking sprinkled with layers of themes spread across for multiple generations of audiences), it still has enough genuinely moving moments to keep them from completely dozing off.

Is "Dolphin Tale 2" a film that I would have personally sought out in my own spare time, or recommend for adult audiences? No, and at times, the amount of gooey sentimentality became so overbearing to the point where I practically went fetal and uttered, "Need... hatred," as the antagonistic character of Plankton from "Spongebob Squarepants" did in one particular episode.

Then again, I'm not part of the target demographic the film is aiming at, and despite the amateur quality of craft from a technical standpoint and feeling the themes of the film being spoon-fed to me in a relentlessly heavy-handed fashion, I still had a smile on my face for the majority of its runtime.

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