There's nothing in the world like a feel-good story underneath a feel-good story and that's the case with Entertainment Squad's Dolphin Island, a Mike Disa (Hoodwinked Too!) directed motion picture created partially to help bring jobs and tourism to The Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian. A portion of the profits from the film goes to the local cast and crew in The Bahamas. It's definitely a feel-good foundation for this family friendly positive feeler starring Tyler Jade Nixon (Dolphin Kick) as 14-year-old Annabel who has lived with her fisherman grandfather Jonah (Peter Woodward, The Patriot) since her parents died in a tragic diving accident. Her life is simple yet happy, though the main thrust of the story kicks in when her wealthy maternal grandparents decide she'd be better off living with them in New York.
For the most part, you know where Dolphin Island goes from here.
Dolphin Island isn't necessarily the kind of film that will razzle dazzle you with unexpected twists and turns or techno-wizardry. It's a rather straightforward family flick, a comfort film with beautiful photography, winning personalities, and a film that for the most part goes exactly where you want it to go.
Nixon makes for a winning presence as the young Annabel, a believable island girl involuntarily tossed into a battle between the life of luxury and a simpler life of love and community. In the film, she and her grandfather help to maintain a research facility her parents had started and, indeed, there's no denying that Dolphin Island seeks to inspire girls to enter the world of STEM and, specifically, marine biology.
For the most part, the characters in Dolphin Island are appealing but fairly one-note. There's not much in the way of emotional complexity to be found despite the inevitable conflicts to be found in what will inevitably become at least partly a courtroom battle. However, if we're being honest we don't watch a film like Dolphin Island for its complexity but for its feel-good vibes, winning spirit, and heartfelt story.
As the story in Dolphin Island unfolds you can't help but love Peter Woodward's incredibly kind Jonah, Dionne Lea's (No Bad Days) Desaray, and newcomer Aaron Burrows as Mateo. Similarly, Bob Bledsoe (Parks and Recreation) adds big city smarm as Carbunkle and both Annette Lovrien Duncan (People Magazine Investigates) and David Raizor (You Can't Take My Daughter) shine as the grandparents increasingly willing to do whatever it takes to get custody of Annabel.
If we're being honest, the film's real star may very well be a certain dolphin who makes a regular appearance throughout the film's 91-minute running time. Lensing by Shaun Hart captures these scenes beautifully and amplifies the natural Bahaman beauty. Chase Horseman's original music is effective throughout and the rest of the film's production credits are rock solid.
Dolphin Island is really sort of a laid back, gently paced feel-good flick safe for the entire family with a story that may not ever challenge but it also never really disappoints. It's a family film through and through and it's a family film with a noble heart and mission underneath it all.
Dolphin Island was released on streaming/VOD by Entertainment Squad on March 2, 2021.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic