Returning to Florida’s Clearwater Marine Aquarium, this inspired-by-actual-events sequel reunites the original cast, headed by Nathan Gamble and Winter, the severely injured bottleneck dolphin who lost her tail after being entangled in a crab trap and now -with the help of resourceful Dr. Cameron McCarthy (Morgan Freeman) – swims with a flexible prosthetic tail. Read on…
Several years have passed since Sawyer Nelson (Nathan Gamble) first bonded with Winter, and the new drama begins with the death of Panama, an elderly dolphin who was Winter’s constant companion in captivity. Usually plucky Winter’s disposition and health are deteriorating fast now that she’s left alone. Marine biologist Dr. Clay Haskett (Harry Connick Jr.) needs to abide by USDA regulations, requiring dolphin companionship, and find a suitable female replacement for Panama or face Winter’s transfer to a Texas aquatic facility. The obvious choice is a convalesced dolphin named Mandy but she seems ready for release and keeping her at Clearwater would be against the basic principles on which the facility was founded. So the only hope for retaining Winter lies with a very young, recently rescued dolphin calf, appropriately named Hope.
Charles Martin Smith (“American Graffiti,” “Starman”) wrote and directed this somewhat fictionalized rescue/rehabilitate/release story and also appears as a vigilant USDA inspector. While it gets a bit soggy at times and the tension is superficial, this sequel, nevertheless, retains the touching, inspirational appeal of the original. Nathan Gamble retains his enthusiasm, as does Cozi Zuehlsdorff as Haskett’s daughter Hazel, who sings “Brave Souls,” the closing credits song. While Kris Kristofferson and Ashley Judd have little to do, surfer Bethany Hamilton has a cameo, and there’s even a subplot for Rufus, the persistent pelican.
After the release of “Dolphin Tale” (2011), Gamble and Zuehlsdorff became spokespeople for the Clearwater Marine Hospital, appearing there three times a year, much to the delight of children with disabilities and thousands of tourists who visit the now-famous Gulf Coast attraction.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Dolphin Tale 2” is a splashing, sensitive 6. It’s family-friendly fun.2