A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What 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.
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?
For kids who love dolphins, the film is filled with plenty of the ever-playful Flipper bonding with children. There is no denying that this is a mid-'90s film, though (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.
Talk to your kids 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?
- In theaters: May 17, 1996
- On DVD or streaming: July 20, 2004
- Cast: Elijah Wood, Jonathan Banks, Paul Hogan
- Director: Alan Shapiro
- Studio: Universal Studios
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Wild Animals
- Run time: 95 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some mild language and menacing action
- Last updated: November 24, 2019
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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