Help pack a million meals for struggling seniors on Sept. 11. Volunteer today




Movies for Grownups


Caucasian couple looking at a laptop computer together


Virgo - AARP Horoscope

Look at what your future holds if your birthday is between August 23 & September 22

Contests & Sweeps

Enter the $50K Picture Your Retirement Sweepstakes. Ends 8/31/15. No purchase necessary. Enter for Official Rules.


The tablet with free 24/7 customer support. Learn More

Most Popular


Movie Review: Dolphin Tale

The story of a marine mammal who gets a little help from her human friends

(L-r) Nathan Gamble as Sawyer Nelson, Morgan Freeman as Dr. Cameron McCarthy, Austin Highsmith as Phoebe, Cozi Zuehlsdorff as Hazel Haskett and Harry Connick Jr. as Dr. Clay Haskett in Dolphin Tale

Morgan Freeman, Nathan Gamble and Harry Connick, Jr. in "Dolphin Tale." — Photo courtesy Jon Farmer/Warner Bros. Pictures

Directed by Charles Martin Smith
Rated PG, Runtime: 112 minutes
Starring Harry Connick, Jr., Morgan Freeman, Kris Kristofferson, Ashley Judd

En español  |  From the folks who brought us The Blind Side comes Dolphin Tale, a heartwarming film based loosely on the true story of Winter, an injured dolphin who washed ashore on a beach in Clearwater, Florida, after her tail got caught in a crab trap. But the heart of the drama is provided by 11-year-old Sawyer (played by Nathan Gamble of Marley & Me and The Dark Knight), who frees the dolphin from the trap and finds purpose in following her rescue and rehabilitation by staff at the Clearwater Marine Hospital.

See also: Movie Review: Project Nim, Can a chimp learn sign language?

Sawyer is in a funk. His father is out of the picture, and his mom, played by Ashley Judd, can’t seem to reach him.  He loves to build and invent things, but he’s not doing well at school, and he falls deeper into a pit when he learns his older cousin Kyle, whom he looks up to, has decided to put aside a competitive swimming career and join the Army straight out of high school. Gradually, Sawyer gains confidence, and a second family, as he offers to help care for Winter, who seems to hold a special fondness for the boy. Dr. Clay Haskett (played adequately but somehow oddly by Harry Connick Jr.), director of the Clearwater Marine Hospital, determines that Winter’s tail, infected with gangrene, will need to be amputated, and that she’ll need some artificial assistance to be able to swim — essential for her survival. Haskett, as it turns out, is a single dad to Hazel (newby Cozi Zuehlsdorff), an adorable girl Sawyer’s age. She and Sawyer become fast friends, mentored by Haskett’s dad (Kris Kristofferson), who lives on a nearby houseboat.

Dolphin Tale is jam-packed with subplots, some seemingly forced for dramatic effect. The marine hospital is mired in debt. A hurricane threatens. And Kyle returns from Iraq morose and in a wheelchair. It’s at the VA hospital where Kyle is being treated that Sawyer meets Dr. McCarthy (played brilliantly, as always, by Morgan Freeman), who manufacturers prostheses for the wounded soldiers he cares for. Couldn’t McCarthy, Sawyer asks, design a prosthesis for Winter that would enable her to swim?

I like that Dolphin Tale takes up some serious subjects — faltering businesses, war and wounded soldiers — though writers Karen Janszen (Free Willy 2) and Noam Dromi could have cut back on the sap, especially when dealing with the future of the marine hospital. And why the producers thought the film — shot beautifully on location in Clearwater — needed to be done in 3-D I don’t understand.  Some of the silliest scenes — namely a pesky pelican who routinely appears out of nowhere — are seemingly included for the sole benefit of special effects.

Still, Dolphin Tale offers up enduring messages about never giving up and the curative powers of human-animal interaction. And it’s a film that will satisfy adults and children alike. Best of all, Winter got to play herself — and that’s a happy dolphin tale if there ever was one.

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts


Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

Your Scoop on Cinema

Movies for Grownups is focused on films with distinct relevance to a 50-plus audience. In reviews, previews and interviews, we look for actors and themes that speak to the experiences of older moviegoers. Find more about us on:


100 Must-See Movies for Grownups

100 Must-See Movies for Grownups

By Bill Newcott
January 2015

A treasure trove of delightfully offbeat recommendations for discerning moviegoers, from the beginnings of film right up the present.

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Live Nation

Members save 25% or more when buying tickets in groups of four from Ticketmaster.

Cirque Du Soleil

Members save 15-30% on tickets to live Cirque du Soleil shows.

Member Benefit AARP Regal 2

Members pay $8 for Regal ePremiere tickets purchased online. Conditions apply.

Member Benefits

Join or renew today! Members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.

Rewards for Good

Your Points Balance:

Learn More

Earn points for completing free online activities designed to enrich your life.

Find more ways to earn points

Redeem your points to save on merchandise, travel, and more.

Find more ways to redeem points