Dolphin Tale is hardly the most original movie ever made. It’s one part Flipper, one part Free Willy and one part Soul Surfer all tossed together in a pot. The one big problem with this most recent animal rescue movie is its preachiness. It comes across more as a means to preach to young, impressionable audiences than to really be anything of substance.
The movie starts off by showing the dolphin, Winter, playing with her fellow dolphins, among a mass of fishing equipment. As subtle as this is, it’s obviously a message about the impact of fishing on the ocean environment. That message is driven home even more when Winter is discovered beached by a fisherman. The fisherman sees young Sawyer Nelson (Nathan Gamble) and gets him to come help get Winter out of the net in which she was caught. In the process of freeing Winter, it’s revealed that the netting caused severe damage to her tail, eventually leading it to be amputated.
The amputation of Winter’s tale leads to the secondary preachy story here. The secondary preachy store is centered on the effects of war on soldiers, both physical and mental. Sawyer works with Cameron McCarthy (Morgan Freeman) to get a prosthetic tale for Winter. Dr. McCarthy works with woudned war veterans, making prosthetics for them. He comes in to play as a result of injuries sustained by Sawyer’s cousin while he was serving. It’s a subtle way for the writers to preach about war and its effects on soldiers and their families. On one hand, this might be too much for younger audiences to grasp. On the other hand, being that it’s part of a movie aimed at young audiences, it could be interpreted as a cheap way to try and influence said young audiences’ mindsets. What’s more, audiences watch movies as a means to escape the preachiness and negativity in the world. So to have a movie script do the exact opposite of escapism only serves to make it that much less of a worthwhile watch.