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The Carmel Valley San Diego community is very close to the ocean so seeing a dolphin isn’t uncommon. If you met a dolphin who has lost its tail and is in critical condition, what would you do? In “Dolphin Tale,” based on an incredible true story opening on Sep 23, 2011, Sawyer Nelson, a quiet and reclusive boy discovers a stranded dolphin one day while biking to school. He cuts the dolphin free from the entangling ropes of a crab trap with his Swiss army knife his cousin gave him from the army. Clearwater Marine Hospital takes the dolphin, but Sawyer is worried about its injured tail. He sneaks into the hospital to see the dolphin, but just before Dr. Clay (Harry Connick Jr.), the head of the hospital, tells him to leave, the dolphin starts moving for the first time since she got there. The dolphin responds to Sawyer, so he is allowed to stay and soon befriends Dr. Clay and his daughter Hazel. He soon develops a strong devotion for the dolphin, which is given the name Winter (played by the real-life Winter!).
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Winter’s tail gets worse and has to be amputated. She teaches herself how swim like a fish, but the irregular motion of swimming would eventually damage her spine. Meanwhile, Sawyer had his own problems at home. His mother (Ashley Judd) was mad at him for skipping school to see Winter, and Sawyer was depressed because his cousin Kyle from the army broke his leg on the battlefield. Kyle went to an army hospital, where he got Sawyer connected with a prosthetics doctor, Dr. McCarthy (Morgan Freeman) who treated his leg and hopefully could do something for Winter. Sawyer had to take a leap of faith that could change the lives of Winter and himself forever.
Click HERE to watch trailer
One of the funniest scenes in the film is when the prosthetics doctor is buying parts for Winter’s tail. When the prosthetic store seller asked Dr. McCarthy who the patient was, Dr. McCarthy showed him a picture of Winter, and the seller’s face froze.
I give this film 4 starfish. The acting of the cast is outstanding, especially Sawyer and Morgan Freeman’s Dr. McCarthy. Freeman really captured the essence of the sympathetic, corky, humorous doctor who really cares about his patients, humans or dolphin. I think the visual and sound effects of this film are amazing. The music really represents the mood of the film, and the storyline was very intriguing. Stories involving children and animals are often very appealing to a family audience. I like how Winter helped Sawyer, a shy and lonely boy come out of his shell of isolation and became a boy of compassion and dedication who inspired all. I can relate to this film because I really like animals. Some of my friends say that their pets are shy around most people except me. I also heard about the true story of Winter’s tail from an article I read a year ago. You can learn more at www.seewinter.com.
There are a few flaws in this film, though. Sawyer’s mom was almost instantly convinced and agreed to go to see Winter. I know from my experiences with my mom (Don’t tell her) that it would take a lot more pleading and negotiating before she would even think about going into an unfamiliar place with a bunch of strangers, but I guess that Sawyer’s mom would be curious as to what her son was interested in. I think it is unrealistic to have Sawyer miss a whole week of school before his mom learned about it. I once missed a day of school when I was sick, and my mom forgot to call my school, but she got a call on the same morning from the school about my absence. Also I think that the filmmakers overused the mischievous pelican that lived on the aquarium roof. The first few times when he ate Hazel’s fish or chased Sawyer’s Mother were funny, but he appeared a bit too often. After the 3rd time, the pelican gags lost their humor.
Overall, the film is “Perrific!” and shows Winter as a symbol of hope for the handicapped people of the world. My mom and I really enjoyed the film. Mom cried many times during the film. We are glad that Winter survived to tell her wonderful tail tale of perseverance and bravery!
Moral: Life is full of challenges, but when you overcome them, you can make the impossible possible!
Perry Chen and Zhu Shen are a unique son-mother team of talent and aspirations. Perry Chen is the youngest award-winning film/ entertainment critic & animator, artist, speaker, and entertainment personality. He started writing movie reviews at 8 using a kid-friendly starfish rating system, under the guidance of his mom Dr. Zhu Shen and his 3rd grade teacher Ms. Harris. Perry’s debut on the CBS Evening News in 2009 made him a national sensation. He has been featured extensively on local, national, and international media, including NPR, Fox, CNN, NBC, The Guardian, The China Press, and many more. He has interviewed prominent filmmakers at film festivals, red carpet premieres, and press junkets. He won a prestigious “Excellence in Journalism Award” at the San Diego Press Club in 2010 as its youngest member. Perry currently writes movie reviews for the Animation World Network, San Diego Union Tribune, Amazing Kids! Magazine, and his own Perry’s Previews website with a combined readership of over 2 million worldwide.
Dr. Zhu Shen’s love for the movies started when she was a young girl, growing up in China during the Cultural Revolution where watching movies was the only entertainment available to the masses. Her journey to become a filmmaker took a convoluted path. She studied medicine at Peking Union Medical College before coming to the US and earning a Ph.D. in biochemistry from University of Colorado, and then an MBA from Cornell University’s Johnson School. She is a producer of the upcoming documentary feature “Average Joe on the Raw,” about journey into raw food and health. Dr. Shen is also an award-winning biotech executive, author, speaker, China business expert featured on national and trade media including CBS, Fox, Business Week, Pharmaceutical Executive, and more. She has worked at IBM, Bayer, Chiron, Immusol, and is the CEO of BioForesight, consulting on cross-Pacific life science business. *Photos of Perry Chen and Zhu Shen by Brian Bostrom