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September 24, 2011 | 9:16 a.m. CST
Dolphin Tale is not an unfamiliar story. A troubled kid finds inspiration in an unlikely (and non-human) friend. Somewhere along the line, he encounters resistance and must make difficult choices, but the new friendship gives him the strength to find the right path.
That familiarity, though, is one of the film’s strong points. There’s something comforting about a well-told but unabashedly sappy story. True, most viewers won’t be shocked at the film’s climax—it’s rare to see a family movie based on a true story that doesn’t have a happy ending—but the way it reaches its conclusion is still touching despite its predictability.Related Movie
Dolphin Tale begins with Sawyer Nelson, a sullen kid with an absentee father who lacks the ability to build relationships with kids his own age and the motivation to do well in school. When he helps save a beached dolphin tangled in a crab trap one morning, a light starts to flicker and he begins to come out of his shell. After emergency surgery leaves the dolphin tailless, Sawyer is faced with an obstacle greater than any he’s faced before.
How Sawyer responds to that challenge doesn’t only direct the course of his life; his decisions will also determine the dolphin’s fate. Moviegoers willing to pretend they don’t know what’s coming may have their own hearts touched, as well.