Flipper (1996 film)

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Flipper Movie.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAlan Shapiro
Produced byJames McNamara
Perry Katz
Screenplay byAlan Shapiro
Story byRicou Browning
Jack Cowden
Music byJoel McNeely
CinematographyBill Butler
Edited byPeck Prior
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • May 17, 1996 (1996-05-17)
Running time
95 Minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$25 million[1]
Box office$20,080,020[2]

Flipper is a 1996 American adventure film remake of the 1963 film of the same title (which in turn began a TV series that ran from 1964 to 1967), starring Paul Hogan and Elijah Wood. The film is about a boy who has to spend the summer with his uncle, who lives on the Florida Gold Coast. Although he expects to have another boring summer, he encounters a dolphin whom he names Flipper and with whom he forms a friendship.

The film is unrelated to the 1995-2000 TV series of the same title that was also a remake of the 1963 film and TV series. Instead of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, a production company for the Flipper franchise, this film is distributed by Universal Pictures.


Sandy Ricks (Elijah Wood) is sent off for the summer to stay with his Uncle Porter (Paul Hogan) in the seaside town of Coral Key. Initially, Sandy is unenthusiastic and disappointed that he isn't going to a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert. His mood remains unchanged even after meeting Cathy (Chelsea Field), a local shopkeeper with whom his uncle carries on a flirtatious relationship, and Kim (Jessica Wesson), a girl his own age.

While out on Porter's fishing trawler, they meet Porter's enemy, Dirk Moran (Jonathan Banks). Nearby, a pod of Bottlenose dolphins is frolicking near Dirks boat. As a big game fisherman, Dirk Moran makes it plain that he hates just about every other fish-eating animal on earth and shoots at the pod ending with a dolphin being fatally shot. Sandy meets a dolphin that escaped Dirk's shooting, and eventually names it Flipper.

The next morning, Porter and Sandy are paid a visit by the sheriff Buck Cowan (Isaac Hayes), who explains that they could not keep the dolphin unless he is in captivity. That night, Sandy and Kim set out on a dinghy to look for Flipper. They fail to locate the dolphin, but see the dumping of barrels off of Dirk Moran's boat. The next morning, as Kim arrives looking for Sandy, Pete, Porter's pet brown pelican, comes running, as if asking her to follow him. Pete leads Kim to Flipper who is beached on the shore and sick. They manage to cure Flipper anyhow.

Cathy determines that Flipper has been poisoned by toxic waste, which is also shown to have been ruining the local fishing. The group uses Flipper's ability of echolocation and a special camera attached to his head to help them locate the barrels of toxic waste. Flipper also manages to locate the rest of his pod, and reunites with them, in the process, dropping the camera. Porter rushes back to alert the sheriff about the barrels. Sandy, however becomes concerned that something has happened to Flipper, without informing anyone except Kathy's young son, Marvin (Jason Fuchs), who sets off in the dinghy to find him.

Sandy barely survives an encounter with Dirk Moran's boat, which dismantles the dinghy. He sees an approaching dorsal fin and thinks it is Flipper, but it is actually Scar, a large great hammerhead shark that has been lurking in the island's waters and is said to have alegidly taken out a tourist boat. Sandy swims for his life towards Dirk's boat. As Scar is about to attack Sandy, Flipper appears and starts nose-butting him in the gills. There is a harrowing moment when Scar proves stronger than Flipper, but Flipper's dolphin pod comes to his aid in the nick of time and drive Scar away. Dirk Moran is then arrested by the sheriff for illegally dumping toxic waste and attempting to kill Sandy since he knew that he saw them that night.

The next morning, when Sandy's mom (Mary Jo Faraci) & younger sister (Allison Bertolino) arrive to pick him up, there is a commotion. It is Flipper, who has come to see Sandy off.



The film was shot in the Bahamas.[3] Animatronic dolphins, designed by Walt Conti and his team, had to be used extensively, such as in scenes where Flipper interacts with the human characters, or is shown swimming along. Conti stated that using real dolphins does not work as well as many might think.[4] Nevertheless, a trio of real dolphins did interact with star Elijah Wood during production, with Wood saying that he enjoyed the opportunity to swim with them.[5]


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.[3] 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.[6]

Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 32% approval rating. Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade of "A-" on a scale of A+ to F.[7]


Award Category Subject Result
Kids' Choice Award Favorite Animal Star Flipper Nominated
Stinkers Bad Movie Awards Worst Resurrection of a TV Show Nominated
Young Artist Awards Best Family Feature - Drama Nominated
Best Performance in a Feature Film - Supporting Young Actress Jessica Wesson Nominated
YoungStar Award Best Performance by a Young Actor in a Comedy Film Elijah Wood Nominated

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. Dubbed "Family Favorites 4 Movie Collection: Franchise Collection", all four films are based on 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. ^ Flipper at Box Office Mojo
  3. ^ a b Leydon, Joe (1996-05-06). "Flipper Review". Variety. Retrieved 2009-11-16.
  4. ^ Rickitt, Richard (2006). Designing Movie Creatures and Characters: Behind the Scenes With the Movie Masters. Focal Press. p. 167. ISBN 0-240-80846-0.
  5. ^ Boyer, Jay (1996-05-17). "Elijah Wood Hasn't Gone Hollywood". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2017-03-08.
  6. ^ Leslie, Dwayne E. (1 August 2008). "Movie Reviews: Flipper". Boxoffice. Archived from the original on 5 February 2010. Retrieved 17 November 2009.
  7. ^ "Cinemascore". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on 2018-12-20. Retrieved 2020-07-21.

External links[edit]