A few weeks ago, CC and I drove up to the Warner Bros. studio lot in Burbank to catch a special screening of "Dolphin Tale," which arrives in theaters Friday, Sept. 23.
Based on the real-life experience of a dolphin whose tail was permanently damaged after getting caught in a crab trap, "Dolphin Tale" tells the story of her rescue and the boy (played by Nathan Gamble) who bonds with her. Winter, as the dolphin is named after being rescued, eventually needs to get a prosthetic tail and, in the process, ends up inspiring a whole community, including a marine biologist (Harry Connick Jr.), his daughter (Cozi Zuehlsdorff) and a prosthetics doctor (Morgan Freeman).
Combine that story line with a boy's need to find his way, the financial struggles of a marine hospital, and the physical/emotional effects of combat on young soldiers, and you have a compelling family-friendly film.
I'll be honest. I cried like seven times during this movie -- and not because anything particularly awful happens. (Parents: I heard that the movie is rated PG rather than G because you see the dolphin tangled up in a net on the beach.) The film is touching and really explores more than just how Winter adjusts to life without a real tail.
But what made me tear up was how uplifting this story is. "Dolphin Tale" is honest about the struggles that come with treating an animal that doesn't fully understand its injury. In real life, Winter's story also connected with people with disabilities -- some of whom came to visit her -- an element of the film that makes it that much more inspiring.
Nathan Gamble, Harry Connick Jr. and Cozi Zuehlsdorff in "Dolphin Tale."
CC, who really enjoyed the film and had tons of questions throughout, really liked that there was a strong girl character in the movie. Daughter to marine biologist Dr. Haskett, Hazel draws out the shy Sawyer (Gamble) and welcomes him as part of the dolphin-saving team. She's smart, spunky and relatable, which CC appreciated.
She also loved the humor. Dolphins -- and in this case, Winter, who played herself -- are funny and adorable!
What I really appreciated about the film, too, was that there was no forced love story between Connick's character, a widower, and Sawyer's single mom (Ashley Judd).
"Dolphin Tale" is a fantastic story for kids of all ages that's touching, empowering and -- well, who doesn't love playful, smiling dolphins who are all about making a (literal) splash?
[Images courtesy of Warner Bros. and Alcon Entertainment. Bottom photo: Jon Farmer]