New on DVD/Blu-ray: Dolphin Tale (2011)

Nathan Gamble in Dolphin Tale (2011) Movie Image

Ah, a boy and his dolphin. Who hasn’t been there before? Back in my day we all had our own dolphins. Or were those rats? Anyways, Charles Martin Smith’s “Dolphin Tale” is one of those films that’s destined to become a hit with families. It’s certainly got an inspirational message, and kids will certainly find it captivating. Unless, that is, they spend their time watching “Keeping up the Kardashians”, and if they are, it means you are a horrible, horrible parent. Anyhoo. Get inspired when “Dolphin Tale” swims onto DVD and Blu-ray December 20th, 2011 from Warner Bros.

In an inspiring story of the bond between animals and humans, a boy named Sawyer discovers an injured dolphin, who is brought to a marine hospital and named Winter. Unfortunately, her injuries cost Winter her tail, without which she may not survive. But with Sawyer’s devotion, a marine biologist’s (Harry Connick Jr.) and the brilliance of a prosthetist (Morgan Freeman) charged with creating a new tail, Winter may receive a second chance at life.

Sawyer’s (Nathan Gamble) life is blowing big time. The boy, who lives with his single mother, relies on best friend and cousin Kyle, but Kyle has gone off to war, and Sawyer is stuck going to summer school. Our young hero’s life looks up, though, when he runs across a stranded dolphin on the beach. Winter, as she’s dubbed, becomes a friend to young Sawyer, and the two learn to rely on one another, though Winter’s handicap may lead to a tragic end.

Enter marine do-gooder Clay (singer turned actor Harry Connick Jr.) and his daughter Hazel (Cozi Zuehlsdorff), who help Sawyer to help Winter through her troubles. Morgan Freeman as a doctor who designs prosthetics for injured soldiers also lend a hand (and a leg or two, ahem). Austin Stowell, as Kyle, also eventually re-enters Sawyer’s life, though not as the man Sawyer once knew. Like Winter the dolphin, Kyle needs help, both mentally and physically, and it’s up to the young boy to take on the monumental task of rehabilitating both, and in the process, perhaps rehab himself as well.

Yes, it’s that kind of movie. I mean, it’s called “Dolphin Tale”, for God’s sake, and the cover doesn’t exactly scream “Sin City” or gritty adventure. Harry Connick Jr.’s fellow musician turn actor Ashley Judd co-stars Sawyer’s mom, and Nathan Gamble, in the lead, is very good. The young actor gives a surprisingly nuanced performance, helped by calm direction from Charles Martin Smith, who is himself a notable character actor. You may remember him as one of Eliot Ness’ mob-fightin’ Government agents in 1987’s “Untouchables”. (He’s the short, bespectacled “nerdy” guy.) “Dolphin Tale” is supposedly based on a true story, which is believable given that Winter the dolphin plays herself, and I doubt if they chopped off her tail for the movie. (Or did they? Muahahahaha.)

Nathan Gamble, Morgan Freeman, and Harry Connick Jr. in Dolphin Tale (2011) Movie Image

The Blu-ray combo pack comes with the film on two discs, standard DVD and Blu-ray. You also get digital and Ultraviolet streaming options for you tablet/portable movie watchers.

Bonus features include a brief 2-minute “The Hutash Rainbow Bridge” animated short film narrated by the film’s star, Harry Connick Jr., along with a longer “Ormie and the Cookie Jar” animated short film in case “Rainbow Bridge” wasn’t enough for you. The latter is about, er, a pig and a cookie jar. Have fun. Your kids will probably love both. Featurettes include a 13-minute “At Home with Winter” that gives you some behind-the-scenes look at Winter’s life at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Florida, “Winter’s Inspiration”, a documentary on Winter’s true-life rescue, plus the usual assortments of extended scenes and gag reels (about 3 minutes).

And finally, there’s a nice 7-minute “Dolphin Tale: Spotlight on a Scene” that dives into (see what I did there?) and dissects the film’s opening sequence, the film’s 3D elements, and Winter’s CGI counterparts in the film. It’s hard to make a real-life dolphin do 3D stunts, after all.

Buy “Dolphin Tale” on DVD or Blu-ray from Warner Bros. on December 20, 2012.

Dolphin Tale (2011) Movie Blu-ray Cover