Dolphin Tale begins its theatrical run today in about 3,500 theaters, buoyed by generally upbeat reviews.
By Thursday afternoon, the critic's clearinghouse RottenTomatoes.com had bestowed its "Fresh" rating upon the movie after 31 of 37 reviews posted were positive in tone. Naysayers included the websites AVClub.com and RedEyeChicago.com, and the New York Times and the alternative weekly Boston Phoenix (maybe their critics are Yankees or Red Sox fans).
Better-known critics were charmed by Winter the dolphin's tale, filmed in Pinellas County. Here's a sampling of opinions courtesy of RottenTomatoes.com:
Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times — "The movie will fascinate kids who love nature, just as Free Willy did... (Director Charles Martin Smith) has made a pleasant family film with an improbable true story at its heart."
Andrew Barker, Variety — "Though garnished with some heavy dollops of cheese, Dolphin Tale is a surprisingly solid, earnest family pic... While the film piles on various backstories and morals a bit haphazardly, parents will surely applaud its underlying message of adolescent empowerment, and the far better than average cast gives this one a strong emotional undercurrent."
Nick Schager, Slant Magazine — Dolphin Tale often feels far more static than it should, but its sincere celebration of perseverance, believing in one's self and others, and people's capacity for kindness and selflessness is hardly something on which to throw cold water."
Alicia Potter, Boston Phoenix — "(T)he weight of the forced and predictable subplots sinks the central story. Winter may be a moving symbol of resiliency, but Smith's film unfortunately sticks to shallow waters."
Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter — "Not a scene goes by that hasn't been precision engineered for its full inspirational, heart-warming value, which equates with some people's concern about what heaven could be like: The sheer goodness of it all might be too much to bear."
Rex Reed, New York Observer — "I saw it in a Sunday afternoon preview with an audience of children who were quiet, mesmerized and completely enraptured. No wonder. Winter is friendly, loving, emotional, playful, brave and intelligent. Before her Dolphin Tale is over, I dare even the most jaded cynic not to shed a tear of admiration and joy."
Steve Persall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8365.