This delightful family film is set in a beautiful Caribbean island with great aesthetics. After seeing some of the press materials, I was anticipating a fun story about a young teen girl who battled for the small-town coastal life where she lives versus the life her city dwelling grandparents want for her.
The promotional materials center the story around Annabel, the 14-year-old girl, teaming with her friends to battle her out-of-town grandparents. The available family study guide also references all kinds of heart-warming themes including courage, forgiveness, and faith. But that is not what the film is about.
The film is about Annabel’s fisherman grandfather, Jonah, who overcame alcoholism to properly take care of his granddaughter in the way Annabel’s parents requested before their accident. Thematically the story is about choosing the moral high-ground, which cultivates and drives respect from others.
The final story turned out very different than what the marketing team, or maybe even the director originally thought. In any case, you can image my surprise to learn the promotions did not match the actual story. Thankfully many of the performances overshadowed this mishap.
Peter Woodward, who plays Jonah, gave an award-worthy performance. He certainly lived up to the talents gained through his long career. His character’s love interest, Desaray, played by Dionne Lea, also gave a solid performance. While she has more potential than this script allowed her to explore, I’m confident we will see her rise in the actor rankings quickly after a few more films get under her belt.
Tyler Jade Nixon played Annabel. Instead of playing the protagonist as marketing led me to believe, she was clearly the archetype or the Obi-Wan Kenobi of the story. Her character saw to everyone’s emotional needs and fully supported her grandfather to the best of her ability.
Bob Bledsoe, most known for his role in Parks and Recreation, played a character who shifted back and forth from being a comedic bubbling fool to a shady lawyer. He brought life to the screen with every appearance and quickly reminded the audience that the film was created for ages 6-12, although the Dove Foundation, who gave their family seal of approval, suggests ages 7-18.
There are other mishaps with this story like the main plot point not starting until 28-minutes into the film. Prior to that a viewer has to be content watching the beautiful scenery cut together like an extended music video with interrupting vignettes. Each segment revealing what a typical day looks like for Jonah, Annabel, and her dolphin friend, Mitzy.
Overall the production team did a good job with its limited budget. Director, Mike Disa, known for his work on shows for younger kids, did a good job trying to make the script work for a more intimate budget. Due to the limitations, the courtroom scene takes place in a conference room. The ocean front conservatory teaming with wildlife is mostly imagined, as it is only revealed through the pier area, a dolphin, and two parrots.
The best part of Dolphin Island for me was its position on morals. The film built a respect for anyone and everyone who chose to live a moral life over a selfish life—a powerful message for the times we live in.
This could have been the film’s greatest achievement, especially if done in a way that kids could emulate the character’s choices. However, most of the morality was played unrealistically, not giving the viewers a real understanding of how to stand up for what is right in their real world.
An example of this disconnect from reality was seen in Bledsoe’s lawyer character making the decision to call the judge and confess his crime at the end of the story. He wasn’t jailed or disbarred. Instead, he was forgiven.
I think the director forgot that forgiveness doesn’t necessarily mean erase or forget the crime. Forgiveness believes in payment in full and an opportunity for a second chance. The short scene should’ve just been left out of the story since it didn’t move the story forward, especially since it raised more questions for young viewers than the value of resolving the minor subplot brought to bear.
Frankly, I think if the film was re-edited to get into the story quicker and the promotions were about Jonah and how Annabel fought with him for what was right, this film would get lots of traction. I’d like to hear your opinion on this film. You can find it available for rent and purchase at most of the major digital release outlets.
Copyright 2021 by CJ Powers
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in hopes that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”