Take a Drink: each time an animal does something “cute”
Take a Drink: during each schmaltzy scene
Take a Drink: for each predictable moment
Do a Shot: for the great Morgan Freeman, whose casting still feels a bit odd
By: Matt Conway (Four Beers) –
Still one of the biggest surprise of the past few years was Dolphin Tale. What looked to be an inexpensive, minor family film ended up becoming one of the fall’s biggest success stories, with the film closing over 70 million dollars domestically. What was truly shocking, however, was the reception, as what looked to be a mediocre family film received a surprisingly great 82% approval rating by critics on Rotten Tomatoes. That is what surprised me.
Do not get me wrong, the original Dolphin Tale was not an awful film, but rather just a very forgettable and banal one. The performances were, not surprisingly, decent and there were even some genuinely pleasant moments, but the film never was able to break away from being mediocre. Three years later, we have Dolphin Tale 2, which is receiving similarly positive word of mouth. However, there seems to be little improvement from the first film, as Dolphin Tale 2 is another mediocre effort.
After saving the life of dolphin Winter, the Clearwater Marine Hospital team must now reassemble to find a companion for Winter after the passing of her mother.
Unlike a lot of sequels, the whole cast is back, and just like the first they do a mostly respectable job. While adult cast are the ones who are being marketed as the stars of the film, the real stars are the kid actors. Similar to the first film, the film mostly follows Nathan Gamble and Cozi Zuehlsdorff as Swayer and Hazel. Both Gamble and Zuehlsdorff are actually quite good, unlike most child actors, and do a solid job with the material they have to work with. They have the task of carrying the film on their shoulders, and for the most part are able to do so.
That being said, the adult cast also does a good job. Morgan Freeman is always a highlight in whatever film he is in, and adds a lot to this one. He brings plenty of charm and prestige to a kind of thankless role as the doctor. Both Harry Connick Jr. and Ashley Judd are well-known and respected actors, and give solid performances. Other actors such as Kris Kristofferson, Austin Stowell, and even Bethany Hamilton in a cameo role do a solid job as well.
Directing the film is Charles Martin Smith, who oddly enough directed Trick or Treat and also directed the original Dolphin Tale. Smith has a good eye for aesthetics, as his and DP Daryn Okada’s cinematography is quite good. Smith very much has a laissez-faire approach to directing here, which is fitting due to this being a calm, gentler film targeted towards family audiences.
The film even features a few really pleasant moments. Themes of parents distancing from their aging kids and growing up in general are handled with some surprising realism, which leads to some good character moments. Dolphin Tale 2 also does a good job of not condescending to kids, trusting them to understand some difficult moments. Unfortunately, there are just not enough of these character moments.
In a lot of ways, the animal characters sideline the human characters. While there are some surprisingly genuine moments with the human characters, it seems that the film takes far more of a focus on the animal characters and their antics. To me, focusing on the animal characters felt like a shallow attempt to appeal towards young kids and family audiences.
The humor in this film is nonexistent. Aside from seeing an animal make a fart noise or splash anyone, the film makes no other real attempts at humor. Again, this feels like it’s just targeted towards kids and really leaving out the adults. Usually a good kids film has humor that can appeal to both of its audiences, or some jokes for kids and some for adults. Aside from thinking about Morgan Freeman being Lucius Fox, there was nothing for adults to find amusing.
Dolphin Tale 2 also lacks any real excitement. The film is extraordinary safe and earnest, yet there really is nothing about the film that comes to life. There is no sense of thrills or excitement throughout the movie’s overlong 107 minute running time, which makes a great deal of the film feeling exceedingly dull. The story, although, putting Winter’s life at risk, still lacks any real sense of danger or tension, as the film’s lackadaisical tone lets the audience know that everything is going to be fine.
Worst of all, there is just nothing that different from the original film. The characters grow only slightly and the story is not that much of a change from the story of the original. After the original film did so well at the box office, it was kind of expected that there would be a sequel in the future. Dolphin Tale 2, however, feels just like a totally unnecessary sequel, wasting the opportunity to do anything new or unique with its increased budget.
Dolphin Tale 2 in a lot of ways represents the changing nature of family films. Even though it’s not animated like most of the kids films these days, family films are seemingly getting lazier, with a majority of them including cheap laughs to appeal only to the tiniest of kids. Sure, there are exceptions to the rule like The Lego Movie, but all too frequently kids films have very little effort put into them.
Dolphin Tale 2 is too earnest for anyone to really hate, but far too dull for most to enjoy. The cast gives a good effort and there are some surprisingly sincere moments, yet most of the film comes off as lifeless.