Dolphin Tale 2 hits theaters September 12, 2014
When I learned I had the opportunity to review Dolphin Tale 2, I knew I had to bring along my younger daughter (age 10) who just happens to be one of the biggest fans in the world of the original film. This was the movie that she would put in her DVD player as she fell asleep most nights. It inspired her to ask for a dolphin whistle when people asked for her Christmas wish list, and she made plans to become a dolphin trainer when she grew up. I believe she just may have memorized every line in the movie. She even got my husband to plan a stop for us at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium on a recent family trip to Florida just so she could meet Winter the dolphin face to face. Of course, that meant it was going to be a tall order to meet or exceed her expectations for a sequel. After our screening, she assured me that Dolphin Tale 2 had earned “two bajillion thumbs up!”
Great Family Interaction
Dolphin Tale 2 is a rare movie that can captivate an adult audience as well as children. Without the aid of animation, this film provides a story the entire family , from parents and teenagers to younger children, can enjoy together. Like its predecessor, 2011’s Dolphin Tale, this film offers an inspiring story about overcoming obstacles, but this time teenagers Sawyer (Nathan Gamble) and Hazel (Cozi Zuehlsdorff) also have to learn how to handle the changes that come with maturity.
Because the children are growing up, the film lightly touches on boy-girl interaction and first-time crushes naturally and without any uncomfortable scenes. In a refreshing twist, the children in the movie continue to have positive relationships with their parents. Although there is some conflict, the children and parents both treat each other with mutual respect and communicate effectively to resolve their issues.
In addition to Gamble and Zuehlsdorff, the entire main cast reunited for the production, including Harry Connick, Jr., Ashley Judd, Kris Kristofferson, Austin Stowell, Austin Highsmith and Oscar winner Morgan Freeman, who provides a bit of comic relief as the doctor who engineered Winter’s prosthetic tail. In addition to Winter, fan favorite Rufus the pelican returns, and new animals are introduced. Bethany Hamilton joined the cast for a small role as herself. Producers saw parallels between Hamilton’s and Winter’s stories of courage. The sequel is written and directed by Charles Martin Smith, who also plays the small role of a USDA representative. Especially, in the case of Sawyer and Hazel, the returning cast allows the audience to see how the familiar characters have grown and changed through the years. The film also provides a glimpse at how Clearwater Marine Aquarium has developed and expanded since, and largely due to the popularity of, the first movie. Mirroring real life, the film’s aquarium has a large group of new and eager volunteers being trained, and several upgrades have been made to the facilities.
Easy to Enjoy and Educational
Of course, the main challenge for any sequel is how to bring back the same elements that made people enjoy the first movie so much. Dolphin Tale 2 not only achieved this goal, but, as was the case with the first movie, it also told a true and heartwarming story about a real dolphin. In this case, the new dolphin on the scene must overcome her own challenges. Hope is just a baby who has been orphaned and must be rescued by the staff of Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The most aww-inspiring scene in the film happens when the rescue van opens to reveal the tiny baby. However, as much as Hope needs CMA, Hope just might also be the answer to saving Winter’s home.
While the kids go through their own growing pains and choices, Clay (Harry Connick, Jr.) actually makes one of the most difficult decisions. The interesting aspect of his decision is that there is no evil enemy. Instead the conflict is between his conscience and the expectations of others. He has to decide whether he will stay true to his original mission despite compelling pressure to do otherwise.
Although the first movie was filmed in 3D, Dolphin Tale 2 was filmed only in 2D, which actually allowed for greater freedom in shooting, resulting in some beautiful water scenes, especially when Hamilton swims with Winter. Dolphin Tale 2 also succeeds in educating the audience about marine life and humans’ responsibility  to safeguard the animals and their environment, but it does so without ever being preachy or feeling like a lecture.
Family Friendly Thumbs Up
Although younger children may find some of the scenes without animals to drag on a bit, all in all, this movie provides a pleasant night out for the family.
Here is a review on another great movie: Grace Unplugged 
photo credit: dolphintale2.com