Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
"Dolphin Tale" is a sweet, feel-good film about a boy who helps save a dolphin, and how the dolphin then helps save him. When we meet young Sawyer Nelson (Nathan Gamble), he has withdrawn into a shell and is a remote loner. He builds models in his workshop, plays video games and avoids interaction with anyone — even at the going-away party for his beloved cousin. His father left the family without explanation some years ago, which may account for his isolation; his mother, Lorraine (Ashley Judd), does what she can, but feels closed out.
On the way home from his Florida grade school, Sawyer happens upon a dolphin stranded on the beach, its tail hopelessly twisted in the ropes of a lobster trap. He bonds with the creature until a rescue team arrives from a local animal hospital. Worried about the dolphin, Sawyer skips school to sneak into the animal hospital, where he's befriended by young Hazel Haskett (Cozi Zuehlsdorff), whose dad, Clay (Harry Connick Jr.), runs the facility.
Sawyer at first is so shy he can barely speak, but these outgoing people encourage him to help with the dolphin, now living in a pool, and soon he breaks out of his seclusion and grows enthusiastic about working with the animal. This involves an attempt to preserve its swimming ability after infection requires its tail to be amputated. A prosthetics specialist (Morgan Freeman) at the nearby VA hospital designs artificial tails, finally finding one that will work.
Learning of this story, I thought, aw, come on, give me a break. But it turns out the story is not only based on fact, but the actual dolphin involved, named Winter, stars in the movie as herself. Her new tail functions admirably.