A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Bernie the Dolphin is a wholesome family adventure with an ecological message. The story centers on siblings (Logan Allen, Lola Sultan) who work together to make a dolphin documentary and, in doing so, present some information about marine life in a way that kids are likely to remember. The siblings' relationship is almost too perfect: They do everything together, look out for each other, and tackle problems together. Their parents have a respectful, affectionate relationship, frequently planting kisses on each another. Flipping some gender stereotypes, the mom is studying for her MBA and is often seen fixing the family boat (although the dad seems to be the one who lays down the law for the kids, without much say from his wife). There's little iffy content -- a use of "crap," a kick, kids being threatened/chased, and kids sneaking into their dad's workplace after hours (for a good reason). From Flipper to Dolphin Tale, dolphins are reliable lures to attract children; that said, the movie's storytelling pace and style may not appeal to kids with shorter attention spans. Kevin Sorbo co-stars and executive produced the film; in recent years, he's become the face of many faith-based films, but aside from a few mentions of praying (one comically so), that's not part of this film.
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What's the story?
Growing up in St. Augustine, Fla., siblings Kevin (Logan Allen) and Holly (Lola Sultan, whose spark radiates through every line) Ryan are always on the water and frequently see a mini-pod of dolphins. When Holly is in a boating accident, she's rescued by the dolphin the pair had named Bernie. When "Bernie" disappears, the siblings conduct a search for their missing friend. In the meantime, they stumble upon a real estate scheme to develop a nearby island and, thus, damage the ecosystem. Kevin and Holly must find a way to stop the real estate development, protect the sea animals' habitat, and save BERNIE THE DOLPHIN.
Is it any good?
In so many ways, this movie is a parent's dream; its just too bad the script and filmmaking aren't more engaging. Bernie the Dolphin features aspirational, smart kids in a loving family that operates with a teamwork philosophy. The children use their unique passions and talents to uncover a suspicious real estate scheme, and their judgment only goes awry when they interpret parental guideposts the wrong way. The dialogue is simple and straightforward, which can be helpful in a film made for children. Other than one word so minor it seems that perhaps the filmmakers didn't realize it could be considered a no-no ("crap"), there's really no iffy content -- and young viewers will probably learn a couple of things and may even take a deeper interest in protecting oceans and marine life.
But unfortunately the story isn't particularly creative, and the movie lacks the pizzazz of modern-day filmmaking. In fact, the scenes most likely to capture children's attention are when Kevin and Holly break the law. Although the title suggests that the movie is about the dolphin, it's really about the family; too much time is spent on the Ryan parents dealing with their issues rather than showing viewers cool dolphin tricks or the kids interacting with Bernie (who's a real charmer; he'll steal hearts). Despite every good intention this movie has, there's a good chance parents will hear those two dreaded words: "I'm bored."
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the family dynamics in Bernie the Dolphin. The father is a former athlete who encourages teamwork in his family and in his career. How do the kids demonstrate teamwork? How do the parents represent this?
Kevin and Holly decide that the only way to do the right thing is to do something they know is wrong: Where do you see the line of integrity being drawn? How does their dad unknowingly compromise his integrity? Was there a way he could have prevented it?
How do Kevin and Holly demonstrate perseverance? How does their determination eventually impact their community?
Did you know a dolphin could get sunburned before seeing the movie? What else will you take away from the film?
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