"Dolphin Tale 2" continues where the first "Dolphin Tale" film (2011) left off. This one is still set in the Clearwater Marine Hospital, a center for sick and disabled marine life. The central character is still Winter, the titular dolphin of the first film with the robotic tail.
Winter became stressed and out of sorts when his companion Panama dies of old age. Regulations dictate that a female dolphin should have a female companion. However, this companion could NOT have a clean bill of health in order to fit the criteria of dolphins allowed to stay in the center. If such a companion cannot be found, Winter will have to be transferred to another facility. Is there still hope for them to keep Winter?
With the dolphin story so threadbare, we have to watch the kids Sawyer (Nathan Gamble) and Hazel (Cozi Zuehlsdorff) undergo their own little subplots to fill the time. Sawyer had to decide whether he would accept a scholarship to attend a marine academy at sea. Hazel had her petty jealousy of a trainee getting close with Sawyer and her bratty arguments with her father, Dr. Clay Haskett (Harry Connick Jr.). The roles of other adult actors like Ashley Judd, Kris Kristofferson and even Morgan Freeman are practically cameos only. They barely did or said anything substantial to the story.
I had the feeling that this was actually a needless sequel. The first film told a compelling story of how the center had rehabilitated a disabled dolphin, and told it very well. But this one really had trouble prolonging the action to fit a respectable running time for a feature film. A lot of the content, like those scenes with the pelican and the sea turtle, felt like filler. It totally relied on music scoring to generate drama, suspense and excitement when all we see are dolphins swimming in a pool.
The first Dolphin Tale film had a great inspirational story to tell, interesting for audiences of all ages. Frankly, Dolphin Tale 2 did not. While it was good to see Winter again, this sequel felt like it was just cashing in on the goodwill and box office appeal generated by the first film, and nothing much else. 4/10.