Review by Bob Ignizio
The first DOLPHIN TALE told the more or less true story of how an injured dolphin was rescued by the staff at Clearwater Marine Aquarium and fitted with a prosthetic tail fin. Unable to return to the wild, which is CMA's primary mission, the sea creature was dubbed “Winter” and became a star attraction at the Aquarium, entertaining and inspiring countless visitors.
In DOLPHIN TALE 2, Winter's companion dolphin dies of old age. Since USDA regulations state that captive dolphins must be paired up with another dolphin of the same gender, that puts Dr. Clay Haskett (Harry Connick, Jr.) under some pressure. When another injured dolphin is brought back to the CMA with sunburns and a lung infection, Haskett's daughter Hazel (Cozi Zuehlsdorff) and fellow employee Sawyer (Nathan Gamble), both of whom played a major role in Winter's rehabilitation, think it's the answer to their problems. Clay isn't so sure, though, as this dolphin, named Mandy, has a real chance of full recovery and return to the ocean. Meanwhile Winter has become despondent and even a little aggressive, at one point injuring Sawyer. Other subplots pad out the film, including a rescued sea turtle, and Sawyer's struggle to decide whether he should take a once in a lifetime chance for a marine biology scholarship, or stay at the aquarium until Winter's situation is resolved.
You can't really be too hard on a feel-good family movie like DOLPHIN TALE 2. Sure, it's kind of lightweight and schmaltzy, but, you know, it has injured dolphins getting better and inspiring people. And it's more or less true – the film claims only to be “inspired” by true events, so I would expect considerable liberties have been taken for dramatic purposes. Certainly the Sawyer's having scholarship subplot fits a little too perfectly into movie convention, but hey, maybe that's true as well. Doesn't really matter. All that matters is, this is an uplifting film that promotes rescuing animals first and foremost, and putting them on display only as a last resort. There's a bit of anti-corporate and anti-authoritarian sentiment as Clay has minor skirmishes with his big bucks investor and the USDA, but neither grows into a full blown conflict. It's just a nice, sappy little movie that you can take the kids to, and while it may not be a first rate example of its type, it's not bad, either. 2 ½ out of 4 stars.