Flipper [PG] 
Overall movie: **
EJW content: Lead (human) character; decent acting, great dolphin training
There's a token story in this movie, but its primary reasons for existence are underwater photography and fun with marine mammals. It appears the filmmakers realized any time spent on plot or character development would take up precious minutes they'd rather use to show us the dolphins. One advantage of this for younger viewers is that the story's not too difficult to follow.
Elijah's Sandy is a rebellious teenager to about the same degree that his Artful Dodger is a vicious criminal (see Oliver Twist
). But if Sandy'd had serious
problems, Flipper would have needed too much screen time to rehabilitate him. That's just the kind of movie this is; its goal is a warm glow rather than a candidly realistic treatment of life's problems. I realize this isn't necessarily a bad thing, especially in a movie aimed at a younger audience.
Now, with that said, if you like to watch dolphins, especially their interactions with humans, you'll find plenty of that here. Elijah's weeks of training leading up to the filming emphasized two things: improving his own swimming to the point needed for the movie, and getting the three dolphins who played Flipper to trust him enough that they'd follow his direction when "acting" with him. These probably weren't easy skills to develop, and the result is fun to watch, but this is Elijah as a dolphin trainer more than an actor. In the story on Elijah in the September 2001 Premiere magazine, I was glad to read this is exactly why he took the role: to have the opportunity to work with dolphins. It was a relief to know it wasn't because he thought it was a great script!
Children who like to see and learn about animals should have a good time watching this movie. There's enough of a story to keep things moving along, but it's not so complicated that it overly distracts the viewer from enjoying the dolphins. There are even some interesting facts thrown in along the way. And if you happen to be an adult watching this movie with such children, you can enjoy what it offers, too--just sit back and forget about what it doesn't offer.