1994, PG, 94 min. Directed by George Miller. Starring Joshua Jackson, Aidan Pendleton, Shane Meier, Chelsea Field, Keith Szarabajka, Tina Majorino, Keith Carradine.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Aug. 19, 1994
Tell me that you've never harbored the desire to hug a seal and feel the swoosh of a sleek, sinuous sea flapper sliding through your arms- and I'll tell you that, under no circumstances, should you see this summer's Free Willy Wonka, Andre. There is little else to recommend about Andre other than gratification of that old hug-a-seal impulse -- unless you consider the sight of a seal dancing to"The Peppermint Twist" a big plus. If that's the case, odds are good that you and the kids have already done the Seaworld thing this summer and there's no real need to overdose on this end-of-the-summer coda. But if you haven't recently made the Marineland pilgrimage or if you happen to be film buddies with any American girl under the age of 10, you may find yourself at some matinee hugging a tub of buttery popcorn in lieu of a slippery seal. Be prepared for a high quotient of "cute" and a low quotient of storyline. Though the movie claims to be based on a real story, one has to wonder what sort of reality these storytellers inhabit. I can buy the notion of a smart seal; I can even accept the idea of a seal smarter than both Keith Carradine and a little girl put together. But a seal that acts like a St. Bernard and rescues doomed boaters in a storm, editorially comments on situations with unprompted raspberries and applause, watches TV, and becomes a vital family member? Give me a break. The plot is too thin to float but makes up for its threadbare structure with a wholesomeness and PG-feel-goodness that is well-suited to its target audience. Child actor Tina Majorino, who received so much praise for her dramatic role in When a Man Loves a Woman and co-stars with Whoopi Goldberg in Corrina, Corrina due out next week, tends more toward the insufferably cute in Andre -- but, hey, she was probably only following her director's instructions. Keith Carradine, who brings little to his scantly written lead role as the seaport town's harbor master, has certainly had finer moments (though it's difficult to call any to mind) than when dressed up here in a funny party hat singing "Happy Birthday" to a pet seal. Director George Miller (Gross Misconduct, The Neverending Story II) should not be confused with the Australian director George Miller of Mad Max and Lorenzo's Oil fame.