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.
Keith Staskiewicz - Entertainment Weekly
Accompanying grown-ups or older siblings will have to choke down a sizable dose of schmaltz with their fish milkshakes.
Neil Genzlinger - New York Times
This is not only kid-friendly fare, but a lovely family movie.
Claudia Puig - USA Today
A heartwarmingly hokey and accessible production.
Sean O'Connell - Washington Post
The result is an excellent family film - maybe not up to 1996's "Fly Away Home'' in the kid-helps-wildlife genre but eye-opening and heartwarming and sensibility-expanding all the same.
Ty Burr - Boston Globe
By the end of the movie, Winter has become a mascot for human disability, especially for children, and Dolphin Tale has enough depth and sensitivity to tap into emotion without feeling manipulative.
Aaron Hillis - Village Voice
Most of the family films churned out today are so junky it's almost a shock to find one in which the animals never spout sassy one-liners, or show off their hilarious hip-hop moves.
Elizabeth Weitzman - New York Daily News
Plenty of ambition. But the dialogue can be tin-eared, and the comedy has a cater- to-kids quality that sells youngsters short.
Lisa Kennedy - Denver Post
...if it doesn't bring a tear or two to your eye, you might need a visit to the cardiologist to see what you've got in there in place of a heart.
Glenn Kenny - MSN Movies
A pleasant family film with an improbable true story at its heart.
Roger Ebert - Chicago Sun-Times
It's rudimentary and even a little clumsy in its filmmaking technique (not a small matter), but there's some narrative ambition, at least...
Michael Phillips - Chicago Tribune
Gamble's rapport with his finned costar is so touching that the movie works anyway.
Andrea Gronvall - Chicago Reader
It may not be a great movie, but it is an exceptionally touching one.
Carrie Rickey - Philadelphia Inquirer
The cast is delightful, the story corny without being cloyingly high-fructose, the direction first-rate.
Colin Covert - Minneapolis Star Tribune
Attacking a film like this for being a tad cloying seems to be missing the point. It's an intrinsic part of what "Dolphin Tale" is. It's like getting mad at a dog for barking.
Randy Cordova - Arizona Republic
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.
Rex Reed - New York Observer
Though garnished with some heavy dollops of cheese, Dolphin Tale is a surprisingly solid, earnest family pic.
Andrew Barker - Variety
Effective as the movie is, it nevertheless left me slightly put off.
Kyle Smith - New York Post
Roger Moore - Orlando Sentinel
Dolphin Tale is a reasonably well-made and likable story about the courageous efforts of a small, determined band of people who come to the rescue of a badly injured sea creature.
Bruce Demara - Toronto Star
A potentially appealing story about a rescued disabled dolphin gets smothered with inspirational family values guff.
Liam Lacey - Globe and Mail
The sheer goodness of it all might be too much to bear.
Todd McCarthy - Hollywood Reporter
Kids are going to eat this up. Given what a dismal year it's been for the family film, it's likely their parents will, too.
Mary F. Pols - TIME Magazine
It just wants to make you leave the theater in a good mood. It certainly accomplishes that.
Will Leitch - Deadspin
Dolphin Tale, an inspirational tale about a Little Dolphin Who Could, will swim into your heart despite some melodrama and predictability.
Amy Curtis - We Got This Covered
Michael Dequina - TheMovieReport.com
It's an earnest, sweet film that relies on the extraordinary true story of Winter, the rescued dolphin, and little on manipulative Hollywood tricks.
Rebecca Barry - Flicks.co.nz
When I write the "Cookie Awards" in my annual Oscar-season column for the Quad-City Times, I always include this category: Most Embarrassing Crying Spell. There is no question which movie will 'win' the award. I bawled when I watched 'Dolphin Tale.'
Linda Cook - KWQC-TV (Iowa)
In the hands of actor-turned-director Charles Martin Smith, this kid-centric drama provides a welcome family option with positive values and a minimum of frantic, noisy CGI. It's a tale told on a human (and animal) scale.
Peter Canavese - Groucho Reviews
One wonders why the filmmakers felt the need to turn a fascinating true story into a cliche-ridden, formulaic family film.
Mike McGranaghan - Aisle Seat
While some adults may get impatient with it, kids will undoubtedly find it appealing.
John J. Puccio - Movie Metropolis
Inspired by a wonderfully inspiring true story, Dolphin Tale has all the right ingredients for a family movie with adorable dolphins ..and the plucky youngster who plays a major role in the feel-good plot
Andrew L. Urban - Urban Cinefile
You would have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by this uplifting, heart-warming tale, about a dolphin that learns to swim with a prosthetic tail
Louise Keller - Urban Cinefile
Sawyer's interactions with Winter make the movie fun for kids especially - an intelligent animal connects with a boy in need of attention and affection.
Cynthia Fuchs - Time to Play Magazine
Those looking to leave the cinema with a warm glow should seek this one out.
James Luxford - The National
Sometimes drifts into the emotional shallows rather than letting its 'inspired by a true story' soar on its own.
Brian Gibson - Vue Weekly (Edmonton, Canada)
An endearing tale of family, friendship and fighting for what you believe in.
Sam Bathe - Fan The Fire
Two hours of redemptive hugs, triumphant whoops and tearful smiles later we learn that pinning a tail on a dolphin is, on the scale of human achievement, not far behind winning the Nobel Peace Prize and discovering a cure for cancer.
Anthony Quinn - Independent
The emotive aspect of the film is so tangible it's the equivalent of having someone grab hold of your heart on the inside of your rib cage ready to give it an occasional squeeze.
Graham Young - Birmingham Mail
While it plays hard and loose with the facts, this tale of a boy and a bottlenose dolphin is guaranteed to create a tidal wave's worth of tears.
David Edwards - Daily Mirror [UK]
Don't expect miracles but this is about a kind of miracle and doesn't sentimentalise it to death.
Derek Malcolm - This is London
The true story of a lonely, underachieving young lad's special bond with a disabled dolphin seems guaranteed to make you teary-eyed.
Allan Hunter - Daily Express
Engagingly directed and superbly written, this is a heart-warming feel-good drama with likeable characters and some impressive dolphin wrangling, though the 3D is entirely unnecessary.
Matthew Turner - ViewLondon
It's easy to roll one's eyes at Dolphin Tale, which is heavy on swelling music and how children - aw, shucks! - can teach adults a thing or two about holding on to hope.
Animal lovers, be prepared to tear up several times as this heartwarming family film hits all the heartstrings inherent in the genre.
Lori Hoffman - Atlantic City Weekly
Jennie Kermode - Eye for Film
You would have to be made of a very hard heart not to be moved by the underwater scenes of Sawyer swimming with the dolphin, and of the real-life footage at the end of amputees meeting Winter.
Roz Laws - Birmingham Post
This is an old-fashioned cockle-warmer that connects through flesh and blood, not pixels.
Elliott Noble - Sky Movies
As slick, charming and eager-to-please as a SeaWorld cetacean.
Matt Maytum - Total Film
As much as it grates, it still manages to warm the cockles.
Derek Adams - Time Out
A good shout if your kids like this sort of thing, otherwise best head to your local aquarium.
Eve Barlow - Empire Magazine
An eminently fine inspiring true-ish story of beating the odds and being the best you you can be, and if that's your poison, great.
Tim Brayton - Antagony & Ecstasy
... though sugary and overlong, ... pleasant enough.
Jim Lane - Sacramento News & Review
A stellar supporting cast lends credibility to this true-life adventure from director Charles Martin Smith.
Roger Tennis - Cinemaclips.com
Relentlessly heartwarming, this film can't help but move us to tears.
Rich Cline - Shadows on the Wall
Could be accused of mawkishness, but I have no problem recommending a movie that encourages children to love and respect wildlife.
John Beifuss - Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)
Manages to hit every mildly comedic and heartstring-tugging bit in the boy-and-his-animal movie playbook.
Ken Hanke - Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)
The story is predictable and follows a well-worn formula, but it does it pretty well.
Robert Roten - Laramie Movie Scope
Move over Flipper, Winter is the new dolphin star.
Jackie K. Cooper - jackiekcooper.com
There is heart here, but that's only during the closing credits when we see a glimpse of the true story.
Jeff Bayer - The Scorecard Review
A movie for the whole family! I don't even know Hollywood was still making those anymore.
Scott Nash - Three Movie Buffs
It may not be a perfect film, but it is an ideal family film.
Daniel M. Kimmel - New England Movies Weekly
Instead of steering toward deep and troubled waters, "Dolphin Tale" jumps through hoops to engage a young audience.
Joe Williams - St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Dolphin Tale has its heart in the right place and tells its story well enough for its core audience. Moralistic and sweet, there's plenty here for kids and parents to enjoy.
Russ Breimeier - Christianity Today
Heartwarming tale is sweet, inspiring for kids and tweens.
Sandie Angulo Chen - Common Sense Media
DOLPHIN TALE is the perfect end of summer event for the whole family.
JimmyO - JoBlo's Movie Emporium
A Disney-esque amalgam of sweetness, humor and a general heartwarming vibe.
Mike Scott - Times-Picayune
Director Charles Martin Smith overcomes the dialogue limitations and schmaltz, and using a pesky pelican for comic relief, crafts a film that appeals to kids and families.
Gary Wolcott - Tri-City Herald
There really aren't many films that you can take the whole family to these days, but this is one of them. (Parental Movie Review also available)
Teddy Durgin - Screen It!
The overall story is better than the actual film. You can tell where Hollywood stepped in and fictionalized aspects of the story. It's still very inspirational and fun!
Kevin McCarthy - BDK Reviews
That it manages to be not insufferable while still being so predictable is a small tribute to its cast and crew.
Stephen Whitty - Newark Star-Ledger
Here's a movie so earnest and unassuming that it's hard to work up the motivation to be snarky about it.
Eric D. Snider - EricDSnider.com
It's very sweet and earnest. That's the good news. The bad news is that it's also kind of dull and packed too full of superfluous stuff.
Dave White - Movies.com
Dolphin Tale works best when it's not actively trying to manipulate your tear ducts.
Grae Drake - Movies.com
A genuinely moving story that is given oomph by a better-than-you'd-expect cast.
Chris Hewitt (St. Paul) - St. Paul Pioneer Press
Director Charles Martin Smith saves Dolphin Tale from becoming a maudlin affair with more sappiness than a Vermont forest during maple syrup season.
Willie Waffle - WaffleMovies.com
Dolphin Tale gets bogged down with the family drama. These and other elements raise the level of cheese to that of a white trash Velveeta casserole.
Kevin Carr - 7M Pictures
Most children's entertainment feels as sugar-addled as their target audience. But Dolphin Tale avoids being either anxious or obnoxious, keeping young moviegoers amused and enthralled the old-school way: with its story and star.
Kevin Williamson - Jam! Movies
It's easy to be cynical ... but then that darn tailless dolphin starts joyfully splashing around and all the corny trappings of the movie simply fade into the background.
Mathew DeKinder - Suburban Journals of St. Louis
Karen Janszen and Noam Dromi have built a screenplay around a true story that draws on familiar Hollywood-movie tropes, but plays well just the same...
Leonard Maltin - Leonard Maltin's Picks
The youngsters and the dolphin show that there's life left in the old 'Flipper' formula yet...[a] well-made, gently comforting modern version of a 1950s live-action Disney movie.
Frank Swietek - One Guy's Opinion
Freeman is clearly enjoying himself, but his mega-watt presence and some unnecessary 3D are just about the only things separating Dolphin Tale from an Animal Planet original movie.
Nathan Rabin - AV Club
Inspiring, feel-good, family-friendly adventure with a special appeal to youngsters who love animals.
Susan Granger - SSG Syndicate
The power behind including footage of real people interacting with Winter reiterates how much better Dolphin Tale would have worked as a documentary or, say, a 'Dateline' special.
Matt Pais - RedEye
A heart-warming story that is one of the best family movies of the year.
Nell Minow - Beliefnet
Curmudgeons could probably pick it apart 'til the cows come home, but "Dolphin Tale" is exceedingly hard to dislike.
...a smart, funny film that packs a solid message.
Michael A. Smith - MediaMikes
It gives young audiences credit for having patience and imagination, and rewards them with an engaging narrative.
Peter Hartlaub - San Francisco Chronicle
A lively, winning family movie starring the very sea mammal at the center of a true story that inspired this film.
Tom Keogh - Seattle Times
a staggering compilation of various cinematic cliches so transparent a kid could see through them
Jason McKiernan - Filmcritic.com
As marine biologist Dr. Clay Haskett, Harry Connick Jr. brings a common sense level-headedness that helps keeps the film grounded.
Laura Clifford - Reeling Reviews
It's a mild shame that "Dolphin Tale" director Charles Martin Smith and his screenwriters have chosen to lard the true-life saga up with a bunch of easily digested imaginary detail straight out of the bland Hollywood feel-good recipe mix.
Mike Russell - Oregonian
The movie has a variety of flaws, but all seem to flow from an excess of wholesome sentiment, and as the movie is pitched to kids, and its preteen characters are the strongest, it never seems to overstay its welcome.
Gary Thompson - Philadelphia Daily News
Even if Dolphin Tale hits every note square on the nose - or maybe because it does - watching it is surprisingly pleasurable.
Stephanie Zacharek - Movieline
With "Dolphin Tale," Hollywood dares to do the almost unimaginable: Create a really heartwarming family movie.
Jackie Loohauis - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Inspirational in the very best sense, Dolphin Tale honors the values of commitment, perseverance, and full inclusion for all life's damaged mammals.
Marjorie Baumgarten - Austin Chronicle
Kids will love it and their parents might shed a tear or two of joy.
Harvey S. Karten - Compuserve
Winter may be a moving symbol of resiliency, but Smith's film unfortunately sticks to shallow waters.
Alicia Potter - Boston Phoenix
A heart-affecting drama about the loving relationship between a lonely and alienated boy and a badly injured dolphin and the community that supports them.
Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat - Spirituality and Practice
Dolphin Tale is flattering, polished, and local chambers of commerce will milk it for years. Even if produced anywhere else, Dolphin Tale is a nice piece of work... the kind of movie that gives squeaky-clean a good name.
Steve Persall - Tampa Bay Times
It's disappointing to find the movie using the dolphin to fuel tepid stories of domestic strife when the star of the show is clearly Winter and her incredible journey of medical treatment.
Brian Orndorf - BrianOrndorf.com
As squishy as the ocean is deep, yet as far as feel-good family films go, this inspired-by-true-events saga exhibits a general refusal to unduly manipulate.
Nick Schager - Slant Magazine
You'd have to have a heart of stone to not be moved by the nonfiction footage of disabled children and war vets finding inspiration in Winter.
Alison Willmore - Time Out
Call it Prosthetic Flipper, but the truly inspiring Dolphin Tale is perfect family entertainment (although why it needs to be in 3D is a mystery).
Pete Hammond - Boxoffice Magazine
"Dolphin Tale" is a sweet children's movie. There are no big explosions, rude humor, or green-eyed monsters -- just a heartwarming true story about people who care for one very special dolphin.
Cole Smithey - ColeSmithey.com
Despite few moments of cornball and some gratuitous 3D, Dolphin Tale is irresistibly cute and undeniably touching--an enjoyable film for all members of the family.
Emanuel Levy - EmanuelLevy.Com