Given the success of Dolphin Tale, based on the story of Winter, the tailless dolphin nursed back to health at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, it was probably only a matter of time before state Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Air Kiss, and state Rep. Ed Hooper, R-Let's Have Lunch, would discover their inner Hollywood's Darryl F. Zanuck.
If this goes on much longer these two chaps are going to start showing up in Clearwater wearing ascots, name-dropping Brangelina and threatening people that "they'll never work in this town again!"
Latvala and Hooper tucked away $5 million in the latest state budget to help speed up a sequel to 2011's Dolphin Tale, which has proven a boon for the aquarium's popularity as moviegoers flock to see Winter and her prosthetic rear fin. Just why producers Alcon Entertainment would need $5 million in public money to produce a sequel is a mystery worthy of Alfred Hitchcock. After all, Dolphin Tale, which cost $37 million to produce, went on to gross $95 million in box-office receipts worldwide.
But the more pressing problem is exactly what would the plot line for the sequel entail? (Sorry about that.) The first movie offered the "based on a true story" tale of Winter losing a hind-fin and subsequently being fitted for an artificial appendage. Would the sequel take a more fictional turn? Would other body parts — purely for dramatic purposes — have to be, ahem, sacrificed to advance Winter's inspirational tale of survival? Let's hope the critter has a good agent.
Director Charles Martin Smith is said to be working on a script for the sequel. And if the second film is also successful, we can probably safely assume a franchise will be born. But what might those future storylines involve?
• "Finbo" — A buff, sweaty, killing machine, Winter — armed to the snout with guns and knives — swims to landlocked Afghanistan as a Special Forces secret weapon to wage war against al-Qaida, which is holding Chuck Norris, Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis hostage. Prosthetic fin retrofitted to fire cruise missiles.
• "Sleepless In Clearwater" — In a desperate bid to rejuvenate her career, Meg Ryan co-stars as a lonely spinster in Fond du Lac engaged in a telepathic relationship with Winter, who offers advice on love and relationships. The resulting relationship builds to a crescendo when the two agree to meet at the new (still-needs-voter-approval) Clearwater Marine Aquarium on City Hall property. Great hilarity ensues.
• "All the King's Roe" — Yearning to stretch her acting chops, Winter stars as a corrupt carp attempting to take over the Louisiana crabbing industry. Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro co-star as great white shark enforcers.
• "Goldfin" — Winter succeeds Daniel Craig as secret agent H2O in this taut, action-packed R-rated thriller. Winter takes on an evil, but brilliant, criminal mastermind bent on dominating the world's oceans by unleashing a massive Red Tide bloom. Along the way Winter still finds time to seduce Porpoise Galore. Look for Flipper in a cameo appearance as M.
• "Iron Mammal" — Picks up where Robert Downey Jr. left off. Winter, who by now has been stripped of all external body parts, embarks on a life fighting international evildoers with a custom suit made of all manner of armor and gizmos. But first Winter must learn how to wear all this stuff and not sink.
• "The Manatee" — In her directing debut, Winter also stars as L. Ron Blubber, an enigmatic leader of a Clearwater-based religious group that peddles a pile of pseudo-theology while ripping off unsuspecting marks of their money. You're right, box-office disaster looms. The plot is too unbelievable.
• "Top Gullet" — Winter takes on the role of a lifetime as the hotshot naval swimmer in training for classified intelligence missions. Conflicts arise when personalities between our hero and her instructor, played by the demanding Charlie the Tuna. Preparations are already underway to take advantage of the on-screen chemistry when they reunite for "An Officer and a Grouper."
• "The Codfather" — Destined to become an instant classic. Francis Ford Coppola helms this sweeping epic with Winter in the lead role of matriarch Donna Calamari, the leader of a school of immigrant crustaceans as they claw their way to power.
• "Dolphin Tale XXVII" — Original stars Harry Connick Jr. and Ashley Judd, who by this point are 87 years old, reunite to help develop a dolphin walker for an increasingly reclusive Winter, who spends her waning days watching "Grumpy Old Mullets" and plotting an escape from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.