Warmhearted remake of TV classic has some scary moments.
  • Review Date: April 16, 2012
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Action/Adventure
  • Release Year: 1996
  • Running Time: 95 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Dolphins are part of a fragile ecosystem that must be protected. Family, friendship, and community can fight back against pollution stemming from short-term greed.

Positive role models

Sandy learns the importance of family, friendship, and the preservation of the oceans.


Early in the film, a dolphin is shot and killed by an angry man on a boat who believes the dolphins are interfering with his fishing. Later in the film, a hammerhead shark notorious for attacking people is shown circling and attacking one of the main characters. One character punches out the other, knocking him into the water.


As he settles into his new life on Coral Key, young Sandy is shown reading one of his uncle's copies of Playboy.


"Hell" is said twice; one character calls another a "smart ass," and early in the film, Sandy tells another character "eat my butt."


Budweiser cans are prevalent throughout the movie. As Sandy begins bonding with Flipper, they are seen playing catch with a Pepsi can.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Uncle Porter is often seen with cans of Budweiser, drinking and, in one scene, pouring beer into a pelican's mouth. He also smokes cigars. Sandy is intrigued by this; at first, he pretends to smoke cigars, but when he is caught by Porter actually smoking one, Porter teaches him a lesson by making him smoke cigars until he throws up.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this 1990s remake of the 1960s TV classic has a scene of a dolphin shot and killed at the beginning, as well as a suspenseful hammerhead shark attack at the end, both of which could be too intense for younger viewers. As a man of the sea, Uncle Porter likes his Budweiser and cigars, both of which are shown throughout the movie. There is mild profanity here and there ("ass," "hell"), but as a whole, in terms of the oft-told story of a boy and his animal (in this case, a supernaturally gifted dolphin), you can do much-much worse.

Parents say

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What's the story?

When Sandy (played by a young Elijah Wood) is sent to spend the summer with his salty but fun-loving Uncle Porter (Paul Hogan) in Coral Key, Florida, he expects to be bored all the time. This changes when he meets Flipper -- a smart and playful dolphin who follows him dock to dock and shore to shore. After witnessing a local fisherman attempt to shoot and kill Flipper, Porter and Sandy work together to prevent Flipper's capture from both the greedy fishermen (who are also trying to pollute the waters) and law enforcement who is starting to think it might be best to send Flipper to Sea World.

Is it any good?


There is no denying that this is a mid-90s film (check out Elijah Wood's concert tees for proof). And as a remake of the television show from 30 years prior, the attempt at making FLIPPER up-to-date and hip to younger viewers of the 1990s might not be entertaining to younger viewers of today. While the movie deviates significantly from its source material, the link between the two is the love of dolphins, and, by extension, the ocean's fragile ecosystem.

It's a familiar-enough storyline -- new city kid hates the boring smalltown, grows to love it -- and the occasional scenes of smoking, drinking, profanity, and ocean violence (be it fishermen with guns, or notorious hammerhead sharks on the prowl) may be too much for younger viewers. But this version of Flipper does manage to preach values of protecting dolphins and the environment without being, well, preachy. Also, for kids who love dolphins, the film is filled with plenty of the ever-playful Flipper bonding with children.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how similar stories and themes are treated throughout the decades by film and television. Even if you are not familiar with the 1960s TV series Flipper, how might that show be different -- in terms of characters, story, and handling of environmental themes -- from this film made 30 years later?

  • As an attempt, in part, to raise consciousness of the importance of protecting dolphins and oceans from poaching and pollution, how effective was this film?

  • How accurately do you think this film depicts the day-to-day realities of fishermen trying to earn a living, residents of ocean communities trying to keep their environment as pristine as possible, and law enforcement working to balance all of these demands?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:May 17, 1996
DVD release date:July 20, 2004
Cast:Elijah Wood, Jonathan Banks, Paul Hogan
Director:Alan Shapiro
Studio:Universal Studios
Topics:Wild animals
Run time:95 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:some mild language and menacing action

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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Kid, 9 years old July 31, 2012

A Review about flipper

Parents should know that flipper contains some scary and extreme scenes. Like when flipper (the dolphin) get caught in a net and almost dies.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism


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