Both films are based on the real life of Winter, who actually co-stars in both films. The use of the real dolphin, instead of special effects, was an inspired choice. Winter has touched the hearts of millions around the world, becoming a beacon of hope—especially for people who have lost (or were born without) limbs. The sense of discovery so evident in the first film isn’t quite back in the new one, but Dolphin Tale 2 has plenty of merit. When the death of another dolphin the facility leaves Winter without a companion, Clay and the team have to face the possibility of losing her to another facility.
A subplot involving the rehabilitation of a sea turtle named Mavis is a distraction that underlines the wobbliness of the plot (although the unexpected bond between Mavis and Rufus the pelican is sweet natured). Sawyer is chosen for a “semester at sea” program and has to grapple with the possibility of leaving Clearwater whether Winter finds a new partner or not. His relationship with Hazel (now in their mid-teens) is too underplayed. Writer-director Charles Martin Smith could’ve explored a bit of chaste romance between these two without compromising the family-friendly PG rating. Some of the elements don’t quite gel organically, but the movie has plenty of heart nonetheless.
Excellent technical specs make Warner Bros.’ Blu-ray a delight, with sterling visuals that highlight some truly beautiful underwater cinematography. The audio is presented in a surprisingly robust DTS-HD MA 7.1 mix, which falters only in terms of occasionally too-quiet dialogue. Rachel Portman’s score is nicely balanced with the action and general ambiance.
There are several breezy special features. Short featurettes (all in the 3-4 minute range) offer a bit of “making of” material. There’s a neat bit about surfing champ Bethany Hamilton (who lost her arm to a shark and was subsequently the subject of the biopic Soul Surfer) and her appearance in the movie. A gag reel includes a sentimental on-set speech by Harry Connick Jr., praising director Smith. There are also two music videos for soundtrack tunes (by Cozi Zuehlsdorff and Gavin DeGraw). A standard DVD and UltraViolet Digital Copy round out the combo pack.
The real magic of Winter and Dolphin Tale 2 is evident in the montage seen prior to the end credits. Here we’re reminded of the power of Winter’s tale as she is visited by some of the real-life people whose lives she has profoundly affected.