Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Charles Martin Smith|
|Produced by||Richard Ingber
Andrew A. Kosove
|Written by||Karen Janszen
|Starring||Harry Connick, Jr
|Music by||Mark Isham|
|Cinematography||Karl Walter Lindenlaub|
|Editing by||Harvey Rosenstock|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Running time||113 minutes|
|Box office||$95,404,397 |
Dolphin Tale is a 2011 family drama film directed by Charles Martin Smith from a screenplay by Karen Janszen and Noam Dromi and a book of the same name. It stars Nathan Gamble, Harry Connick, Jr., Ashley Judd, Kris Kristofferson and Morgan Freeman.
The book and film are inspired by the true story of Winter, a bottlenose dolphin that was rescued in December 2005 off the Florida coast and taken in by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Winter lost her tail after becoming entangled with a rope attached to a crab trap and was fitted with a prosthetic one. A sequel, Dolphin Tale 2, is currently filming; it is set for a September 2014 release.
||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (May 2013)|
The initial scenes of the movie show a pod of dolphins in their natural habitat followed by a crab fisherman returning a crab trap to the ocean after emptying the trap of its contents.
In the next scene, Sawyer Nelson (Nathan Gamble) is biking along the beach when a fisherman (Richard Libertini), calls for help after finding an injured bottlenose dolphin tangled in a crab trap. The two call for assistance, and rescue workers from the Clearwater Marine Hospital, run by Dr. Clay Haskett (Harry Connick Jr.), take the injured dolphin for treatment. Clay's daughter Hazel (Cozi Zuehlsdorff) names the dolphin Winter, as two prior dolphins, Summer and Autumn, were successfully returned to the ocean, and believes that using seasons as names will continue the streak. She allows Sawyer to see Winter. Clay initially does not like the arrangement since Sawyer is not trained in marine animal care, but after noticing that Winter responds well whenever Sawyer is around, he is allowed to visit. Soon Sawyer, who was enrolled in summer school due to his failing or nearly failing all his classes during the year, starts skipping classes daily to visit Winter. Sawyer's mother Lorraine (Ashley Judd) finds out about Sawyer skipping classes, but after seeing that Sawyer's interaction with Winter has improved his moods and well-being, something Sawyer had not shown since being abandoned by his father who disappeared five years earlier, she withdraws him from summer school and agrees to let him to volunteer at the hospital.
Unfortunately, Winter's tail is damaged and thus must be amputated. Winter learns to swim without a tail by developing a side-to-side motion, like a fish, but after an x-ray Clay notices that the unnatural motion is causing stress on her spine; if continued the motion will eventually kill her. Meanwhile, Sawyer's cousin Kyle (Austin Stowell), a champion swimmer, returns from the military with a damaged right leg from an explosion. Sawyer wants Kyle to meet Winter and excitedly anticipates seeing him at a welcome-back party thrown by his aunt, but is devastated to learn that Kyle has skipped the party, preferring to stay at the local Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Sawyer and Lorraine go to visit Kyle who is working with Dr. Cameron McCarthy (Morgan Freeman) in the facility's prosthetics lab. To Sawyer's surprise, Kyle is embarrassed to see them and even asks them to leave, which infuriates Sawyer. Kyle takes him on a walk and talks to Sawyer about his leg. Sawyer then asks Dr. McCarthy about a prosthetic tail for Winter. He agrees to work on the project during his upcoming vacation, and convinces his prosthetic supplier (Hanger Prosthetics and Orthotics, which supplies Winter's real-life tails) to supply the parts at no cost. Dr. McCarthy manufactures a "homemade" model tail while waiting for the real one to arrive; however, Winter destroys it by banging it against the pool wall.
Shortly thereafter the hospital, already in financial peril, is seriously damaged by Hurricane LeRoy, whereupon the board of directors agree to close the hospital, sell the land to a real estate developer, and find homes for the animals, except Winter, who due to her condition is not wanted by anyone and may have to be euthanized. However, after a chance encounter with a mother and daughter (who also had a prosthetic limb) who heard about Winter's story and drove all the way from Atlanta to see her, Sawyer comes up with a last chance plan ("Save Winter Day") to save the facility. Clay is not sold on the idea, but reconsiders after talking with his father, Reed (Kris Kristofferson). Kyle agrees to a race against Donovan Peck, the current local swim champion who followed him at high school and broke nearly all his prior swim records, and enlists a female friend at Bay News 9 to promote the event.
The Hanger-supplied tail finally arrives; however, Winter damages it as well. Sawyer discovers that Winter isn't rejecting the tail; instead, the plastic to which the tail is attached is irritating her skin, which Sawyer compares to a seat belt chafing human skin. Dr. McCarthy comes up with an alternative gel-like sock (which he calls "WintersGel", the real-life name of the Hanger product used to attach prosthetic limbs, which was developed during its research with Winter). When Winter is fitted with the new prosthetic tail, she then tries to damage it but she is then able to accept the new plastic and tail.
At Save Winter Day, Winter is released into a river for the event and Sawyer's former summer school teacher gives him credit for his work at the hospital, allowing Sawyer to pass summer school despite not attending formal classes. The fisherman who initially spotted Winter places $40 in the donation jar saying, "Winter and I are old friends." The board learns that the real estate deal has closed; however the developer, who attended the event with his grandchildren, agrees to allow the hospital to remain open and says he will financially support it. Kyle and Donovan Peck then race in the river, which Kyle then wins (with the help of Winter). Sawyer then dives into the river with Winter.
The ending shows documentary footage from Winter's actual rescue and that she is happy and healthy. It then shows several of the prosthetic tails that Winter has worn, and scenes from real amputees who have visited Winter at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.
Differences between the movie and actual events
- In the film, Winter is stranded on a beach near Clearwater. She is found by a nearby fisherman sitting on the shore (and then rescued with Sawyer's assistance). In real life, Winter was found in Mosquito Lagoon south of New Smyrna Beach―part of the Cape Canaveral National Seashore. The fisherman who discovered her was in the lagoon as well. Winter was first taken to the local Marine Discovery center and then transferred to Clearwater, which is on the opposite side of the state.
- In the movie Winter appears to be at or near full growth when she is rescued. In real life she was about two months old.
- In the movie it is mentioned that Winter's tail was amputated due to infection caused by the tail being caught in the rope. In real life, the loss of blood supply to the tail (from being caught in the rope) caused most of the tail to naturally fall off, with a small piece being amputated.
- In the movie the process of developing Winter's tail takes place over a few weeks by a Veteran's Administration doctor working during his vacation. In real life, the process of developing a suitable tail (and attaching it) took a number of months by Kevin Carroll and Dan Strzempka from Hanger Clinic.
- In the movie Winter is found during the summer. In real life Winter was found during the winter
- Winter's name was thought of by Hazel because two other dolphins were called Autumn and Summer. In real life, she is called Winter because she was found during the winter season.
- In the movie Hurricane Leroy damaged the hospital. There was never a storm named Leroy that has ever hit Clearwater
- Harry Connick Jr. as Dr. Clay Haskett, the operator of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Clearwater and Hazel's father.
- Ashley Judd as Lorraine Nelson, Sawyer's mother and a nurse.
- Nathan Gamble as Sawyer Nelson, an 11-year-old boy who finds Winter and cuts the crab trap off her. And he also becomes Winter's "mom" and friend.
- Winter as herself, an injured dolphin that must have part of her fluke amputated. Despite that, she adapts and swims side-to-side. But that figures to be bad for Winter's spine, hence the fake tail (which allows her to swim naturally.)
- Kris Kristofferson as Reed Haskett, Clay's father and Hazel's grandfather.
- Morgan Freeman as Dr. Cameron McCarthy, a prosthetic designer and Kyle's doctor at the VA Hospital.
- Jim Fitzpatrick as Max Connellan, Kyle's father and Sawyer's uncle.
- Cozi Zuehlsdorff as Hazel Haskett, an 11-year-old girl and the daughter of Clay and granddaughter of Reed.
- Ray McKinnon as Mr. Doyle, Sawyer's teacher.
- Austin Stowell as Kyle Connellan, Sawyer's cousin.
- Michael Roark as Donovan Peck, a friend of Kyle's.
Dolphin Tale was filmed in native 3D. The film was shot primarily in Pinellas County, Florida with the principal location centering around Winter's home, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Additional locations featured in the film include: Admiral Farragut Academy, Honeymoon Island, Tarpon Springs, and local news station Bay News 9.
The film opened at #3 with $19.2 million behind the 3D re-release of The Lion King and Moneyball. In its second weekend, the film reached the #1 spot, dropping only 27%, and grossed $13.9 million. As of January 5, 2012, the film has grossed $72,070,473 in the United States and Canada as well as $17,594,373 internationally bringing its worldwide total to $89,664,846.
The film received very positive reviews from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 83% of 102 critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 6.5 out of 10. Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, gives the film a score of 64 based on 30 reviews. Blake Wilson, author of the review blogsite Movies Taken Seriously, gave the film 4 stars, calling it "Heartwarming, dramatic, and cleverly-told, Dolphin Tale is one of those rare family gems that is excellent in every way".
|Young Artist Award||Best Performance in a Feature Film - Leading Young Actor||Nathan Gamble||Nominated|||
|Best Performance in a Feature Film - Supporting Young Actress||Cozi Zuehlsdorff||Nominated|
On June 18, 2013, Warner Bros. announced plans for a sequel titled Dolphin Tale 2, with a scheduled release date of September 19, 2014. The sequel will focus on a new baby dolphin named Hope who also resides in the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.  Cast and crew began filming in October 2013.
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- Official website
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- Dolphin Tale at allmovie
- Dolphin Tale at Box Office Mojo