Last week we went to see the movie Dolphin Tale and this post has been marinating in my brain for the past week. I'm not one to wax poetic about movies in general. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE movies. In fact lately, I feel as though I really miss the experience of going to the theater. However, most movies really don't stick with me. I think my brain just doesn't commit them to long term memory. My husband teases me that I can rewatch a movie within months of originally seeing it and still be surprised by the plot.
The plot of Dolphin Tale didn't have any plot twists. It begins with dolphins in wild swimming free. There is lots of great ocean imagery which I love. I swear I could sit and watch ocean documentaries every day. We get introduced to Winter as a curious fun loving juvenile dolphin. Eventually her curiosity get her tail stuck in a crab trap. There is a very touching scene when Sawyer, an 11 year old boy, finds her washed up on the beach. He calls a local marine rescue and the two bond while she heals. Her tail is badly infected and has to be removed, but Winter leans to swim without it. Unfortunately, the side to side motion she uses begins to damage her spinal chord. The rest of the movie is spent trying to get Winter a prosthetic that she doesn't reject. There is a very scary hurricane too. Of course it ends happily as most kids' movies do, and it was pretty cheesy. For some reason it didn't bother me though. The movie could have been like any other kid movie, but there were three things that made it stand apart for me.
There was a wonderful cast of characters in this movie, and it did include Ashley Judd and Harry Connick Jr. both of whom I LOVE, but I was most impressed with the main kid characters. As I mentioned there is an 11 year old boy named Sawyer. He is a battling some sadness because his Dad left and didn't come back. There is a great relationship between him and his cousin who is about to be deployed in the military. The true magic happens between Sawyer and 11 year old Hazel. She is the daughter of the main marine rescuer. The two could not be more different. He goes to school; she is homeschooled. He is quiet; she is very talkative. He is rigid; she is a free spirit. They do bond over Winter, and because they both know what it is like to lose a parent. The great thing is that there is never any sexual tension between them. They interact like kids should interact. In fact it almost seems that they picked two actors who looked bit alike to foster a brother sister type bond. After all the Disney shows and movies that act like all 11 year old are waiting to jump each other's bones. It was so refreshing to see a movie that showed kids as something other than pre-teens.
The character of Hazel was particularly likable. They mention, in passing, that she is homeschooled, but never mention it again. Then they paint a picture of this driven, courageous, creative kind little girl. She is everything I hope to foster in my own girls. The whole time whether the audience realizes it or not, the fact that she is a homeschooler is forming positive connections in their brains. I love that they were so subtle with it. Sometimes movies are so in your face with the messages that people reject them immediately. In this case the movie doesn't say, "Homeschooled kids are great!" Instead it shows you that Hazel is great, and then allows the audience to draw their own conclusions.
For me the best part was that it was an inspirational movie that didn't alienate non-Christians. I don't believe that a belief in God is necessary for people to do great things. I think that people are driven to be kind and brave because it feels good, but most times the main characters in inspirational movies turn to God for support. I have no problem with that, but it was nice to see a movie that allowed the characters to do great things because of human nature instead of the promise of a place in heaven.