Dolphin Tale review (Blu-ray)

More so than Raymond, everybody loves dolphins. Especially the Japanese, who are quite fond of dolphin sashimi. Those of us in the west, however, prefer our dolphins alive and swimming, and preferably in the wild. We love them for their warm, friendly and fun-loving natures, and for their intelligence. So our natural instrinct upon seeing a dolphin in distress is to do what we can to help.

That's what young Sawyer (Gamble) does when he comes across a young bottlenose dolphin tangled up in a crab net on a Florida beach. A rather shy, withdrawn kid, Sawyer forms an immediate bond with the injured mammal – which he names Winter – and follows her recuperation closely after she's taken to the Clearwater Marine Hospital.

The news, though, is not good. Winter's tail has been too badly damaged and must be amputated. Which means she has to learn to swim without it, but that causes spinal problems – Winter teachers herself to swim by swishing her stump from side to side, which is not a natural movement for a dolphin. So enter prosthetics expert (and comic releief) Freeman to save the day.

Dolphin Tale is a first-rate family film, from the same people who brought us 2009's Oscar-winning The Blind Side. It manages to fall short of being overly syrupy and schmaltzy, thanks to terrific perfomances from Connick as marine hospital chief Clay Haskett and Judd as Sawyer's mum Lorraine, through to Morgan  and Gamble as Sawyer. But the star of the show is Winter as herself – yes, not much acting involved there, but she's quite amazing when it comes to relivng her real-life experience.

The film is utterly engaging and has a positive message to tell about overcoming disabilities – it's highly recommended viewing for the whole family, especially those who love dolphins. And isn't that everybody?

EXTRAS ★★★½ The animated shorts Hutash's Rainbow Bridge (2:26) and Ormie and the Cookie Jar (3:59); the featurette At Home With Winter (13:22), a behind-the-scenes look at the film and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium; the featurette Dolphin Tale: Spotlight On a Scene (7:17); the featurette Winter's Inspiration (18:08), the story of the real-life Winter's rescue and rehabilitation; a deleted scene, Winter Meets Panama (2:21); and a gag reel (2:49) – which, of course, is full of human, not dolphin, error. Plus, with this being a Triple-Play edition, you get copies of the film on Blu-ray, DVD and Ultraviolet.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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