Eye of the Dolphin
2007, PG-13, 101 min. Directed by Michael D. Sellers. Starring Carly Schroeder, Adrian Dunbar, George Harris, Katharine Ross, Christine Adams.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Aug. 24, 2007
Strictly a for-kids-only drama with its afterschool-special-style scripting, guardians should, for once, take this film's PG-13 rating with a grain of salt. There is no better audience for Eye of the Dolphin than preteen girls. Add in decent performances and gorgeous underwater cinematography, and you get a movie that's appropriate for the whole family. Schroeder plays troubled teen Alyssa, who is acting up in the wake of her mother's death. When she gets suspended from school, her grandmother (Ross) decides it might be time to meet the father who doesn't know she exists. "He studies dolphins in the Bahamas. How bad can that be?" she says. So the two drop in on James (Dunbar), whose gut reaction upon being introduced to his daughter is to vomit – not in a gross way, actually but as a signal of the kind of honesty Eye of the Dolphin seems to strive for. Of course it's a simplified honesty, as befits the targeted age group, yet the film neither avoids nor dwells on plot points that involve such things as a child born out of wedlock, a reluctant father, an interracial couple, and the age-old battle between pro-growthers and preservationists. James has hit a difficult point in his dolphin research that pits him against the townspeople who would prefer to profit from their tourist-friendly dolphins. Alyssa becomes instrumental in the struggle as she, too, learns to communicate with the animals. She learns that dolphins do indeed talk, though humans rarely pause to listen. The blond-headed Schroeder, who appears in nearly every scene, is a capable young actor, and the appearance by The Graduate's Ross is a welcome bonus. Eye of the Dolphin is much better than most films of this sort, and if it helps a generation of young girls want to grow up to swim with live dolphins rather than groom My Little Ponys, that's certainly not a bad thing at all.