Mike at the Movies

Dolphin Tale 2 (PG) ***

What can be wrong with a movie that features two cute kids, not one but TWO dolphins, Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd and Harry Connick, Jr.? Not much, as it turns out. For anyone who loves animals, thrills at animal rescues and thinks Ashley Judd as Lorraine Nelson and Harry Connick, Jr., as Dr. Clay Haskett should get together for the benefit of themselves, this is a perfect movie—except for the last bit. Looking perhaps at another sequel, Lorraine and Clay are not united. Their kids (Cozi Zuehlsdorff and Nathan Gamble) have better luck in an absolutely charming teen romance that never quite gets off the ground, no matter how perfect the kids are individually. As for Winter, the tail-less dolphin with her own movie, “Dolphin Tale,” and her new friend, Hope, a rocky road is easy to predict but I shall leave the outcome out of this review. Suffice to say that, without Hope, Winter will be relocated to Texas by the USDA. That means another citizen support group must be formed, like the one in “Dolphin Tale,” to save both animals.

The underwater scenes are spectacular, the emotional bond between the animals and humans is totally gripping, and you cannot avoid emotional investment in the story, even if you try. A side story that is beautifully developed is the parenting challenges for Lorraine and Dr. Haskett as both their kids are faced with challenges they cannot surmount alone. An interesting addition to the cast was Bethany Hamilton, subject of the biography “Soul Surfer” about the loss of her left arm to a tiger shark while surfing.

I suspect you, like I, will fight off the chokes as the emotional stakes keep rising, more for the dolphins than the humans, but all make credible performances in this successful sequel.

The Identical (PG)*

“[The acting experience] is just like opening a secret closet that you never knew existed.” So said Blake Rayne, starring as Elvis—oops—Ryan Hemsley and his twin brother, Drexel, in a new film entitled “The Identical.” Oh, Blake, better that many things stay in the closet, even if you know it exists, than open it and deliver such a horrible product to the American public.

Very briefly, Ryan and his brother are separated almost at birth because of hard times for their parents, and Ryan grows up not knowing he has a twin. Vice versa for Drexel as he moves up the ladder of songdom to be known as “The Dream.” His brother, Ryan, grows up frustrated and serving in the Army where he picks up useful skills in the motor pool and returns home to deliver packages for a UPS-like service. Ryan is still as sharp-minded as ever. Case in point is the scene with his future wife.

She: standing in a white uniform and cap behind the reception desk at the local hospital.

He: “ So you’re a nurse.”

She: “Yes, I am.” DUH!

Ryan soon marries her (she attracted to him no doubt by his powers of observation) and enters a contest run by brother Drexel called “The Dream,” which Ryan wins of course. (No spoiler alert necessary. You know from the start that Ryan will win because he IS Drexel, a fact that Drexel, no Phi Beta Kappa himself, does not recognize even though he endorses Ryan as the winner.)

There’s one of the oddities of this mess. Though both are singers and Ryan is making a living as a copy of his more famous brother, billed as “The Identical,” even when they meet, it occurs to neither of them that the resemblance may have an easy explanation. NOBODY figures out the relationship, though they are identical twins—no disparaging remarks about backwoods Tennessee are necessary here, though they may be appropriate—and the plot moves through a cloud of clichés to its predetermined conclusion. There are lines in this miscarriage of cinematic zeal that you expect to hear from the start, and they are all heard eventually: “I made you, Ryan Wade, and don’t ever forget it!” and “It’s not the money. It never was.” There is even a Little Person who stops Ryan from drinking when he discovers the truth and a soupy meeting between his real father and Ryan at Drexel’s grave.

Enough bathos to end the drought in California, and none of it really good movie-making. Ashley Judd is uniquely impervious to aging, though the rest of the cast, especially Ray Liotta, almost rot before your eyes, Seth Green is as irritating as ever as a diminutive drummer, and there is FAR too much Bible thumping to keep the story moving.

This appears to be a production of the Marcellino family as one is a director, another three are producers and there is at least one in the cast. The production company formed by the Marcellinos, City of Peace, is oriented toward Jewish causes and points of view, is located in Nashville where Marcellino “… finds himself overflowing with vision, creativity and a passion to bring ‘redeeming value’ through music, film and video.” I am not really sure what that means since one man’s redemption is another man’s lustful passion, but that’s what the company claims. I did not find this movie redeeming in any way unless Christians wearing a lot of “chains” is redeeming. And unless plagiarizing Elvis Presley is seen as “redeeming.” I found it cheap, exploitative, simplistic, unbelievable and totally predictable. Nothing redeeming there. Go at your own risk.

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