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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 12 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 37
Winter's second Tale an endearing sequel
Arts & Entertainment
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Winter's second Tale an endearing sequel

by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

DOLPHIN TALE 2
Now playing


A few years after losing her tail in a fishing net and being saved by youngster Sawyer Nelson (Nathan Gamble) and the crackerjack team at Florida's Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA), dolphin Winter has just suffered her second tragedy. Her surrogate mother, Panama, has sadly passed due to old age, leaving her young companion alone, a serious no-no as far the USDA is concerned.

Now the clock is ticking to find Winter and her prosthetic fin a new companion. But with the head of the CMA, Dr. Clay Haskett (Harry Connick, Jr.), refusing to budge from his institution's mission statement of rehabilitating the animals they treat with the ultimate goal of releasing them back into the wild, chances a new dolphin will be coming to stay are slim. On top of it all, Sawyer has been chosen as the lone teenage recipient of a major scholarship that will send him away from Florida and Winter for three full months, and as amazing as this opportunity might be, he's just not certain he can be away from her for that long considering all that's happening.

For those who enjoyed 2011's Dolphin Tale, it's highly unlikely they're going to be even slightly disappointed with this follow-up Dolphin Tale 2. Also inspired by actual events at the very real CMA revolving around their beloved dolphin with the prosthetic fin, Winter, this movie is an equally rousing family-friendly drama about resilience, fortitude and courage, this time revolving around a coming-of-age conundrum familiar to people the world over. It's a fine little movie, returning director Charles Martin Smith - this time also penning the script - handling things with confident vitality, thankfully limiting the inherent treacle coursing through the melodrama to a relative minimum.

The entire cast from the first film, including Gamble, Connick Jr, Ashley Judd, Morgan Freeman, Kris Kristofferson and Austin Stowell, all return; and while some of them are shoehorned into the proceedings rather awkwardly, they still do a nice enough job overall. Also back is Cozi Zuehlsdorff portraying Dr. Haskett's firecracker of a daughter Hazel, this time making goo-goo eyes at Sawyer while throwing tantrums at the thought Winter might be on the move courtesy of USDA regulations. As cute as she was in the first film, and she was adorable, I actually found her somewhat insufferable this time, her chemistry with Gamble not particularly strong, making their maybe-more-than-friends friendship not nearly as believable as it should be.

All the same, the movie never overstays its welcome. And, while the outcome is never in doubt, getting there is far more emotionally affecting than I expected it to be before entering the theatre. I admit to having to reach for my tissues on more than one occasion, an opening five-minute sequence with famed one-armed-surfer Bethany Hamilton more euphoric and inspiring than the entirety of the movie Soul Surfer based on her life proved to be. Former actor Smith does a wonderful job highlighting the CMA's business of animal rescue and rehabilitation, and on more than one occasion my heart skipped a beat as the team at the institute did their job to perfection.

Dolphin Tale 2 isn't a great film. It doesn't do anything unexpected or go in directions close to being off the beaten path. But it does warm the heart in ways that feel honest, authentic and pure. And, while Sawyer's choices aren't shocking or Winter's situation isn't resolved in an unsatisfactory manner, that doesn't mean they don't tug at the heartstrings nonetheless. This sequel is a sweetly endearing one, plain and simple, earning both my tears and my smiles, even if it doesn't bust convention while doing so.

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