Review: “Dolphin Tale” – Susan Granger

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Back in 2005, troubled, fatherless, 11 year-old Sawyer Nelson (Nathan Gamble) was walking down South Beach in Florida, when he saw a young dolphin caught in a crab trap. Determined to help, he cuts the ropes, comforts the stranded animal and summons a marine rescue team who deliver her to a dedicated marine biologist, Dr. Clay Haskett (Harry Connick Jr.), at Clearwater Marine Hospital.

Named Winter by Haskett’s chattering daughter Hazel (Cozi Zuehlsdorff), she is suffering critical damage to her tail, requiring amputation. As the odds against her survival mount, along with the aquarium’s debts, Sawyer devotes himself 24/7 to Winter’s care, ditching summer school, much to the initial chagrin of his hard-working single mom, Lorraine (Ashley Judd). And when Sawyer discovers that the military is developing prosthetics, he convinces ingenious Dr. Cameron McCarthy (Morgan Freeman) at the VA Hospital to take a look at Winter.

“No one in his right mind would try to put a tail on a fish,” McCarthy mutters. “Which, luckily, I’m not.”

Combining fact with fiction, screenwriters Karen Janszen and Noam Dromi delineate courage, dedication and persistence in overcoming adversity, dovetailing with a subplot involving Sawyer’s swimming champion cousin Kyle (Austin Stowell), who returns home injured after his Army deployment in the Middle East.

In addition to assembling a remarkable acting ensemble, including Kris Kirstofferson and Frances Sternhagen, director Charles Martin Smith (“Air Bud”), working with cinematographer Karl Walter Lindenlaub and production designer Michael Corenblith, relates this heart-warming, real-life story which led to the development of a sticky, super-soft, flexible prosthetic material, dubbed “Winter’s Gel,” that has changed the lives of physically challenged people everywhere.

Filmed at Clearwater Marine Aquarium – made famous at – indomitable Winter plays herself in the movie – plus there’s fascinating documentary footage of her swimming and interacting with children and other amputees, and a second aquarium building is opening that will display the movie props.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Dolphin Tale” is a feel-good, family-friendly, inspiring 8 – with a special appeal to youngsters who love animals.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.