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Dolphin Tale Review Critics


Dave White Profile

Drowning in excess. Read full review


Grae Drake Profile

Inspiring but lacking porpoise. Read full review

Other Critics provided by

Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 4.0

    out of 100

    Generally favorable reviews
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 67

    out of 100

    Entertainment Weekly

    While the plot occasionally feels like "Free Willy" without the drama, it's a cute story if you don't mind temporarily trading in your cynicism for a bag of popcorn.

    Read Full Review

  • 70

    out of 100

    The Hollywood Reporter Todd McCarthy

    This true story of a dolphin with a prosthetic tail has been precision engineered for full inspirational, heart-warming value.

    Read Full Review

  • 75

    out of 100

    USA Today Claudia Puig

    The story of healing and courage is told with a refreshing lack of cynicism, not surprising since it's from the same producers as the wonderful "My Dog Skip."

    Read Full Review

  • 75

    out of 100

    Chicago Sun-Times Roger Ebert

    Learning of this story, I thought, aw, come on, give me a break. But it turns out the story is not only based on fact, but the actual dolphin involved, named Winter, stars in the movie as herself. Her new tail functions admirably.

    Read Full Review

  • See all Dolphin Tale reviews at

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

OK for kids 7+

Heartwarming tale is sweet, inspiring for kids and tweens.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this inspiring family drama with themes of courage and survival is based on the true story of an injured dolphin named Winter. There's very little content that isn't age appropriate for kids of all ages, but younger viewers may be sensitive to a few mildly upsetting scenes: the opening shot of Winter stuck on the beach with a bloody, tied-up tail; the news of an injured character returning home from his deployment; and a sequence showing a hurricane hitting central Florida. Many school-aged children may actually already be familiar with the story, since the book about Winter's rescue is included in some middle-grade lesson plans.

  • Families can talk about Winter's story of survival. How is the dolphin the "hero" of the story? Who helps her beat the odds? What are some other movies about animals that defy expectations?
  • What's the movie's message about the difference between school work and life experience?
  • How does the movie portray "handicap"? Why does Winter become a symbol to people with various disabilities?

The good stuff
  • educationalvalue true2

    Educational value: Kids will learn about marine animals, especially dolphins, and how they live and move and what they need to survive. The doctor's explanation of prosthetics is also surprisingly educational, as is the scene showing the amputee veterans who are playing basketball with their prosthetic limbs in place.

  • message true4

    Messages: The movie is swimming in positive messages about the importance of family and friends, the bond that exists between human and animals, and the idea that being disabled doesn't mean that you can't accomplish your dreams.

  • rolemodels true4

    Role models: All of the characters are positive role models: Sawyer is loyal, Hazel is loving, Dr. McCarthy is generous, and Dr. Haskett is dedicated to his work. Everyone works together to save Winter, even when it looks like hope is lost. The kids persevere with their desire to keep Winter alive.

What to watch for
  • violence false1

    Violence and scariness: When viewers first meet Winter, she's lying on the sand with rope tied around her tail and body, and her tail fin is bloody and bruised. When she eventually has to have her tail amputated, she's shown in the water with the remaining stump; Sawyer and Hazel are very upset. Sawyer's cousin returns from his deployment in a wheelchair, but his injury isn't described or discussed in detail. A hurricane hits Florida and destroys parts of the sanctuary, but no animals are shown hurt.

  • sex false0

    Sexy stuff: A mildly flirtatious first meeting between two adult characters, plus some brief shots of shirtless and swimsuit-wearing teens at a pool party.

  • language false0

    Language: "Crappy," "holy smokes," "shoot," and "stupid" are as strong as it gets.

  • consumerism false1

    Consumerism: Brief mentions/shots of a Nintendo DS, Swiss Army knife, and Wikipedia.

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false0

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Not applicable