The Clearwater Marine Hospital (which is called the “Clearwater Marine Aquarium” in real life) saves a dolphin. A dolphin saves a boy. A boy saves a dolphin back. And then both the boy and the dolphin do some more saving along the way. (I told you there’s a lot of saving.)
But even though we all know how the end turns out because Winter is healthy and lovely at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium right at this very moment (and is in fact enjoying some serious dolphin stardom), the movie takes some twists and turns that leave you actually wondering what happens. And for that I say, good job.
The movie is based on a true story and centers around a young dolphin who got tangled up in a crab trap. Dr. Clay Haskett (Harry Connick, Jr.) and his team at the Clearwater Marine Hospital were able to save her, but unfortunately, not her tail. It was damaged so badly it had to be removed. The named the dolphin “Winter” because of the time of year she was found, and even though her tail was healing, she was not going to survive without a way to swim. That is, until, a troubled little boy named Sawyer (Nathan Gamble) who’d taken an interest in Winter meets up with a prosthetics doctor, Dr. Cameron McCarthy (played by Oscar Winner Morgan Freeman) and together they make miracles happen. The movie also includes Ashley Judd as Sawyer’s mother, Kris Kristofferson as Dr. Clay’s father, and Austin Stowell who plays “Kyle,” Sawyer’s cousin who is deployed overseas after enlisting in the Army.
In Real Life
The real Winter was found on a Florida beach tangled in a crab trap in 2005 by a fisherman. After she was rehabilitated, the CEO of the aquarium, David Yates, was inspired to share Winter’s story with the community through www.seewinter.com , garnering television coverage and eventually the attention of a film producer. I always love the story behind the story, especially in this case because I had met Winter long before the movie began shooting and yes, she is as inspiring in real life as she is on the big screen.
Winter plays herself in most of the movie and loved every minute of it, paparrazi and all and is in fact, quite a ham for the camera. The parts where she didn’t play herself was a fully articulated animatronic dolphin, but you can’t tell the difference. At all.
The movie took some liberties with the plot by adding the boy to the story, but overall, the star of the show was Winter and they stuck to that part pretty well, from her struggle to acclimate to her new tail to the overnights the trainers had to spend with her nursing her back to health. Morgan Freeman’s character was everything you’d imagine in a character he would play: everything that came out of his mouth was either funny or profound.
It was not lost on me that there are a couple of boy & dolphin frolicking scenes that were sweet on the borderline of too much, but I can forgive the cheesy frolicking on account of the bigger picture. There were multiple plots and personal struggles going on throughout the movie but coupled with the frolicking dolphin, it will keep the kids attention.
Winter inspired a community, she inspired a movie, and she continues to inspire people with disabilities and prosthetics every day and the movie includes some touching real-life footage of those moments.
This movie, which is rated “PG,” is actually more “G” than some of the recent “G” movies I’ve seen. It’s rated “PG” for some miled thematic elements, mainly the idea of prosthetics and loss of limbs. But it’s done tastefully and my children have already wondered out loud about people’s prosthetics in real life, so we’ve already covered that. To me the strength of overcoming disability is the bigger lesson and worthy of teaching.
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