Directed by: Michael D. Sellers
Starring: Carly Schroeder, Adrian Dunbar, George Harris, Katharine Ross, Christine Adams
For those of you who like a little marine life to go along with your melodramatic pap, it’s the Eye of the Dolphin (and, one would assume, it’s the thrill of the fight as well). The movie is the latest four-waller to hit town, meaning it doesn’t have normal distribution, and the makers have paid the theater for screen time. After watching the film, you’ll likely wish they’d paid the audience to sit through it, too.
The movie attempts to provide your normal family-drama fare, except director Michael D. Sellers and his writing partner Wendell Morris don’t seem to have any idea how to accomplish this, despite all the clichés that they drag out. The plot follows Alyssa (Carly Shroeder, Gracie), a young girl whose mother has just died and, in typical movie-teen fashion, has become “troubled.” But since the film is family-oriented, Alyssa’s rebellion is relegated to being a smart-ass brat and wearing the kind of makeup that even Dee Snider would think is gaudy. It isn’t until Alyssa is caught smoking a joint in the ladies room at school that her grandmother (Katharine Ross) decides the young girl needs a parent. Alyssa is sent to the Bahamas to stay with her father, James (Adrian Dunbar, The Crying Game), a man Alyssa’s mother had always told her was dead because he hadn’t wanted to be a father.
It’s not until we get to the Bahamas that we find out that pops is some type of dolphin researcher. What he’s researching exactly is never really explained, but it has something to do with sonar and animal communication and involves James sitting in the bottom of his boat, in the dark, in front of a laptop. The gist of the research seems to be to prove that dolphins are smarter than humans (but if they were, you’d think they’d be in better movies). The only problem is that James’ work isn’t cutting it, and the locals want to turn his research facility (which seems to consist of a boat and some chicken wire) into a tourist attraction. It’s through this ordeal and the unifying power of aquatic mammals—not to mention the magic of scripting—that Alyssa and James learn to love and respect each other. This all culminates in one of the most confusingly pointless non-endings imaginable, with Alyssa risin’ up to the challenge of their rival and saving the research facility by swimming with a wild dolphin. How this is supposed to save James’ job or vindicate his research is never explained, but hey, the screenplay says so.
The film is a mess from top to bottom. It’s shot with all of the flare and panache of a wedding video, plus it’s overlong and poorly paced. Characters like James’ girlfriend (Christine Adams, Batman Begins, who along with George Harris, Layer Cake, give the film its only above-par performances), are forgotten for long chunks of time. Most of the movie just meanders around until it fills out its running time, and is padded with the kind of hokey melodrama that makes Degrassi look like high art. Take scenes like the one in which Alyssa, after being forbidden to hang out with her wild dolphin friend because wild dolphins are dangerous, ends up wandering the beach in a drunken stupor.
Sure, the movie is well intentioned with its messages about family, how you shouldn’t lose your grip on your dreams, and how you must fight to keep them alive. But this means little when the entire endeavor is handled with the kind of talentless mediocrity that would make Uwe Boll proud. In the end, all one can really say about this film is, to quote Steve Zissou, “Son of a bitch, I’m sick of these dolphins.” Rated PG-13 for some substance abuse involving a young teen.