Flipper (1996 film)

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Flipper Movie.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Alan Shapiro
Produced by James McNamara
Perry Katz
Written by Ricou Browning
Jack Cowden
Starring Paul Hogan
Elijah Wood
Music by Joel McNeely
Cinematography Bill Butler
Edited by Peck Prior
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • May 17, 1996 (1996-05-17)
Running time
95 Minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $25 million[1]
Box office $20,080,020

Flipper is a 1996 adventure film remake of the 1963 film of the same name, starring Paul Hogan and Elijah Wood. The movie is about a boy who has to spend the summer with his uncle, who lives on the Gold Coast. Although he expects to have another boring summer, he encounters an bespectacled dolphin whom he names Flipper and with whom he forms a friendship.


Sandy Ricks is sent off for the summer to stay with his uncle Porter in the seaside town of Coral Key. Initially, Sandy is unenthusiastic, and is upset that he's going to miss a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert which he already bought tickets for.

While out on Porter's fishing trawler, the two meet Porter's arch enemy, Dirk Moran. Nearby, a pod of dolphins is frolicking near Dirk's boat. As a big game fisherman, Dirk hates just about every other fish eating animal on earth. He shoots at the dolphins because they are stealing and eating the bait from the fishing hooks. Many escape, but one dolphin is separated from the main pod. Sandy sees the dolphin and, sensing that his life might be in danger, lies to Dirk when Dirk asks him where the dolphin went. Later that day, Porter introduces Sandy to his friend Cathy and her shy yet inventive son Marvin. Porter explains to Cathy that they haven't had a decent catch since Spring. Cathy, a marine biologist, tells Porter that a sample of fish Porter brought in earlier had tested positive for dioxin, a toxic waste.

Later that evening, Sandy heads to the docks so that he can catch the ferry back to the mainland so he can see the concert. While there, he kicks a Pepsi can into the water. The stranded dolphin he met earlier tosses it back. Sandy repeats this trick several times and begins to feel a connection with the dolphin. Then his ferry arrives. Porter wakes up to find his nephew missing; a neighbor tells him where he is. Porter catches up with the ferry and brings Sandy back to Coral Key in the midst of a tropical storm. In the storm shed they argue; Sandy doesn't like the fact that he had to miss the concert, while Porter is angry that he had to go looking for Sandy instead of boarding up his windows and preparing for the storm. The next morning, they find the devastation left by the hurricane. Porter explains to Sandy that he needs to go to the mainland in order to have his boat repaired. He tells Sandy that if he cleans up the mess while he's away, he will pay for Sandy to see the next concert in Orlando. Sandy agrees, however, he is distracted from his work by the dolphin, who he names Flipper. Sandy then meets a girl named Kim, who tells Sandy that Flipper is lucky to have survived on his own this long, especially with a fearsome hammerhead shark named Scar in the area, who has been terrorizing Coral Key for a long time. While playing, Kim explains that he'll need fish. Sandy starts his own amusement park called The Flipper Show and charges one fish for admission.

Porter arrives home and is furious when he finds out that Sandy has been playing with the dolphin rather than doing what he was meant to, and decides to teach him a lesson by letting him smoke cigars until he throws up. However, Porter eventually sees just how much Sandy has bonded with Flipper. Sandy even introduces Flipper to Marvin, who helps break him out of his shell.

While having lunch at a restaurant, Sandy, Porter, Cathy, and Kim are harassed by Dirk Moran, who taunts Porter about having a "pet" dolphin. Shortly after this, Flipper is caught by Dirk Moran's men. Porter comes to the rescue, cutting the rope to release the net so that Flipper can escape. Dirk initially tells Porter that he will "teach him a lesson" but is silenced by Porter.

The next day, Porter and Sandy are paid a visit by the sheriff Buck, who explains that they can't keep the dolphin unless he is in captivity. Cathy argues that Flipper can't fend for himself anymore and is dependent on them, however, Buck explains that if that is the case then he must go to an aquarium. Reluctantly, Sandy agrees to let Flipper go, and Buck and his men take the dolphin out to sea.

That night, Sandy and Kim set out on a dinghy to look for Flipper. While unable to locate the dolphin, they do witness Dirk Moran and his men dumping barrels filled with toxic waste into the water.

The next morning, Kim arrives looking for Sandy when Pete, Porter's pet brown pelican, comes running up to her, almost as if asking her to follow him. Pete leads Kim to Flipper who is beached on the shore and sick. Kim yells for Sandy, who helps her move Flipper onto a tarpaulin tied to the dock so that he doesn't sink, and then runs to alert Cathy. Cathy mixes a special medicine for Flipper and takes a blood sample. Flipper recovers, but Cathy concludes that Flipper was poisoned by dioxin, the same toxic waste that turned up in the fish she tested for Porter earlier. Sandy tells Cathy about the night he witnessed Dirk Moran dumping the poison. Porter and Cathy have lunch with Buck and show him the test results. They tell him they have an idea as to whom the perpetrator may be, but the sheriff tells them that Flipper's test results alone are not enough evidence. He also explains his dismay at learning that Flipper is back, and informs them that they must release Flipper into the wild within 3 days or he'll be sent to SeaWorld. Porter and Cathy realize that they must solve this mystery themselves. They set out, along with Kim, Sandy and Marvin.

Cathy hopes to use Flipper's gift of echolocation and a special camera she attaches to his head to help them find the toxic waste. Their plan works, and are successfully able to locate the toxic waste. However, Flipper also manages to locate the rest of his pod, and drops the camera and reunites with them. Porter heads back to alert the sheriff. Sandy, however becomes concerned that something has happened to Flipper, and without telling anyone except for Marvin, sets off on the dinghy in order to find him.

Sandy barely survives an encounter with Dirk's boat which dismantles the dinghy. He sees a dorsal fin and thinks it is Flipper. It is actually Scar, the Hammerhead shark! Sandy swims for his life, but Scar is faster. As Scar is about to attack Sandy, Flipper appears and starts nose butting Scar in the gills, but the shark is stronger than Flipper. Flipper's pod comes to his aid and the dolphins manage to drive Scar away from Sandy. Sandy makes it to Dirk's boat, where Dirk reveals that he knows that Sandy witnessed him dumping the toxic waste barrels into the sea. Dirk is just about to kill Sandy when Flipper jumps up and with his tail knocks Dirk right into the sea.

Eventually Porter arrives and helps Sandy to safety, and shortly afterwards Buck arrives to arrest Dirk. The sheriff, upon seeing how useful Flipper was in helping them locate the toxic waste, tells them that Flipper can stay with them. Sandy, however, realizes that Flipper belongs with his pod, and, after bidding the dolphin an emotional farewell, Flipper swims away with his family.

The next day, Sandy's mom and sister arrive to pick Sandy up. Sandy says goodbye to Cathy, Marvin, and Kim, and asks Porter if he can come back next Summer, to which Porter eagerly agrees. Porter is last seen presenting Cathy a bouquet of flowers, implying the start of a relationship between the two. On the Ferry back home, an excited group of people gather on the deck. Sandy decides to check out the commotion. It is Flipper, who has come to see Sandy off. The camera then slowly zooms out and the screen then fades to black.



The film was shot in the Bahamas.[2] Animatronic dolphins, designed by Walt Conti and his team, had to be used extensively, such as in scenes where Flipper is needed to interact with the human characters, or swimming along; Conti stated that using real dolphins does not work out so well as many might think.[3]


Joe Leydon of Variety criticized the plot but appreciated the performances of Hogan, Wood, Wesson, Hayes and Field, as well as the animatronic work on the film.[2] Dwayne E. Leslie of Boxoffice noted the scene where a hammerhead shark attacks a seabird, which brings to mind similar footage from National Geographic, may be shocking for very young children.[4]

The film's tagline, "This summer it's finally safe to go back in the water." references the tagline of the 1978 feature film Jaws 2, "Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water..."

Box office[edit]

The film debuted at No. 2 with $4.5 million.[1] Flipper ultimately grossed $20 million domestically, on a $25 million budget.

DVD release[edit]

The film was released on DVD in 2003 by Universal Studios Home Entertainment, available in both 16x9 anamorphic widescreen and 4x3 fullscreen editions. In 2007, a widescreen-only print of Flipper was released in a four film package alongside The Little Rascals, Casper, and Leave It to Beaver (film). Dubbed "Family Favorites 4 Movie Collection: Franchise Collection", all four films are based off popular TV shows. Flipper was later released on Blu-ray on February 8, 2011.


  1. ^ a b Brennan, Judy (1996-05-20). "Twister Sustains Box Office Momentum in 2nd Week". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-02-04. 
  2. ^ a b Leydon, Joe (1996-05-06). "Flipper Review". Variety. Retrieved 2009-11-16. 
  3. ^ Rickitt, Richard (2006). Designing Movie Creatures and Characters: Behind the Scenes With the Movie Masters. Focal Press. p. 167. ISBN 0-240-80846-0. 
  4. ^ Leslie, Dwayne E. (1 August 2008). "Movie Reviews: Flipper". Boxoffice. Retrieved 17 November 2009. 

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