Alright, I know the title is pretty rich, coming from an organization that also creates Transformers content. But hear me out. As reviewers, we’re always expected to judge movies purely on their artistic merit. But as a filmmaker myself, I know there are people behind the camera. And in front of them, too. People who had to work really hard to make whatever it is that I’m watching. Probably with not enough money. Usually with not enough time. But every so often, I get the chance to review a film with a pretty significant social impact. I’m usually more forgiving about such films and their flaws; they are a means to an end. But Dolphin Island is a surprisingly solid family film, despite being a vehicle for social relief. Let me tell you why.
The Plot Is Not a Character
I liked Dolphin Island, sure. But its plot won’t win any major awards. Just an old geezer and his granddaughter trying to make ends meet, after the girls’ parents pass away in a diving accident. They inherit a marine reseach center, and all is well in their world. Family feuds, shady lawyers and initially hostile social workers put a damper on the main pair. But love prevails. The end. And yet, not quite.
Despite a somewhat generic plot and some untapped potential around the research center itself, Dolphin Island eventually charms its way into your heart. It is the plucky little film that could. The dialog is stiff at first, but as the film progresses, the world of the film becomes engrossing and you, in turn, become emotionally invested in it. As a horror film fan first, documentary lover second, family films aren’t usually what grabs my attention. But I found myself thinking “I’m really enjoying this” many times throughout my viewing experience. That is no small feat.
The Social Impact of the Film Is a Character
Aside from some minor passing remarks in the film itself, you wouldn’t be able to tell this is a socially-driven movie. And yet, Dolphin Island was created in order to help the people of the Bahamas. Their livelihoods affected by Hurricane Dorian and “the thing that happened in 2020”, the habitants of these islands were (and still are) at more financial peril than most. Mr. Puppy Presents and Entertainment Squad decided to make a film to highlight the beauty of the islands and their people, as well as help the inhabitants in the process.
As the founder of an NGO myself, the phrase in the movie “when he said it was a non-profit, he meant it” made me laugh. I understand the struggle. And I value Dolphin Island all the more for it.
Dolphin Island Is More Than the Sum of Its Parts
The truth is, however, that the film stands on its own two feet as an entertaining, wholesome movie. Bob Bledsoe plays an incredibly hateable lawyer, and there are a couple of surprises in the third act that really made me go “wow, they did that?”.
As I mentioned before, the plot isn’t groundbreaking, and to be fair, the sound mixing sometimes is a bit iffy. This latter point is probably the biggest gripe I have with the film, but it may stem from my past as a music producer. I doubt that the general audience will ever know, or care.
The performances are pretty good all around as well. The younger cast members in particular surprised me, and the dolphin(s) were, as usual, incredibly charming.
Overall, this is a family film that is good on its own, but also one whose goodness is compounded by its social impact. I urge you to seek it out. Thankfully, you can do so pretty much everywhere.