On the one hand, Charles Martin Smith's family-friendly feature Dolphin Tale, about a sad boy and a hurt dolphin, is an overstuffed kid-vid. The "real events" it's based on likely include only this: A rescued dolphin in Florida suffers an amputation and is eventually fitted with a prosthetic tail, thereby allowing it to survive and live happily at a marine re-hab attraction.
But, fearing the Case of the Broken Dolphin isn't enough of a dramatic hook, Tale adds: a nerdy, fatherless boy, who helps save the dolphin; wounded vets; a hurricane; and a financial crisis, before producing a savior in the familiar shape of kindly Morgan Freeman, a.k.a. the guy who builds the tail.
But here's the kicker: The dolphin plays itself! Everything else about this admittedly well-meaning movie was so fake, except the dolphin -- saved from death to be trained to recreate a not-quite-real version of its own life. Frankly, it made my head spin in a not-unpleasant way, and allowed me to forgive much of this film's cheesiness. Also, learning during the credits how the real dolphin does meet-and-greets with children and vets who also have prosthetic limbs made me hate myself for hating on the film. Take your kids: They'll enjoy the phony hurricane, and leave with some good thoughts. In 3-D in select theaters.