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The Search for the Worst Movie Ever: 'Dolphin Tale 2'

By Cinesnark | Film | September 15, 2014 |

By Cinesnark | Film | September 15, 2014 |

There is a (very) small part of me that feels bad for picking on a kids’ movie. But then I remind myself that in this year alone children’s movies have included The LEGO Movie, How to Train Your Dragon 2, and Guardians of the Galaxy (which is totally a kids’ movie—it ended with a Care Bear Stare). And WALL-E, The Bridge to Terabithia, The Never Ending Story, Todd and Copper, and the best kid + animal story of all time, Air Bud The Black Stallion, are all “kids’ movies,” too. So the bar is pretty fucking high for movies made for children. Besides, tens of millions of dollars were spent to make Dolphin Tale 2 and Warner Brothers spent tens of millions more to advertise it, and released it in thousands of theaters across the country—if they’re going to act like it’s a real movie then I’m going to treat it like one.

But I want to emphasize that at no point is this a real movie. The closest Dolphin Tale 2 gets to being a real movie is during underwater scenes of dolphins swimming together. Then it’s almost a nature documentary. The rest of the time it’s part Discovery Channel reenactment, part commercial, and part Very Special Episode of an after-school Disney show. It’s boring and bland and includes several completely baffling logical failures, and also one of the worst child actors I have ever seen, Nathan Gamble. In the interest of not bullying a child on the internet, I’ll just say that maybe the Parents Gamble want to find another hobby for their son.

A lot doesn’t make sense about Dolphin Tale 2, but the most confusing thing is why this isn’t a documentary. Throughout the movie Hazel Hackett (played by the improbably-named Cozi Zuehlsdorff) constantly films around the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, and after the movie, clips from the real CMA team performing all of the rescues and releases depicted in the movie are shown. So why didn’t we just watch those real clips? Why did we sit through 107 minutes of cheesy reenactments when footage exists of real rescues occurring? And don’t tell me it’s because kids like it—I made a point of seeing this movie during a weekend matinee specifically to watch kids react to it, and they were uniformly bored. Even the kids from the birthday party, all hopped up on cake, weren’t into it.

I was also completely confused by why Sawyer (Gamble) and Hazel are allowed to run roughshod all over the adult, highly educated and trained professional staff at the aquarium. I understand Hazel performing as the announcer during public displays of the marine mammals (see also: Bindi Irwin), and I understand kids who grow up handling animals participating in their daily care. What I don’t understand is children—who have not completed their sophomore year of high school—ordering complicated medical procedures from fully accredited members of the medical profession. In one scene Hazel orders a CAT scan for a sea turtle and the licensed VETERINARIAN DOCTOR standing next to her is just like, “OK Pubescent Child, whatever you say.”

But that is when the true insidious horror of Dolphin Tale 2 began to sink in. We all know that dolphins are thrill-killing murderbeasts with a penchant for sexual assault, and now we’ve taken one of these highly evolved and intelligent beings and allowed it to essentially live on land with us, giving it regular access to humans for it to study and enslave. And we haven’t just let any dolphin into our backyard, no, we’ve welcomed Winter, a super-survivor of the species whom we’ve turned into a goddamn cyborg. Everyone’s lives revolve around Winter—Sawyer nearly passes on a valuable educational experience simply because Winter is unhappy. Indeed, Sawyer is so victimized by Winter that when she injures him in an attack he blames himself, and even tells someone he “fell down” when asked about his injury.

Dolphin Tale 2 is not a heartwarming story of friendship and overcoming adversity. It’s a chilling warning of what will happen if we allow the cetacean rebels to advance any further into our terrestrial domain. They’ve already got us producing this pro-porpoise propaganda on their behalf; if we don’t draw the line here and now soon we’ll all be obeying Delphinidae masters, and children will be their emissaries while adults are forced into subservience. And then it’s only a matter of time until we’re welcoming King Tritonius from Zarlax-7 as our new overlord.

Cinesnark also writes reviews for her own outlet. You can follow her on Twitter.