Flipper

on May 17, 1996 by Dwayne E. Leslie
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With only one or two good family films to choose from this season, this movie is a welcome sight at theatres. "Flipper" is loosely based on the '60s movies and the subsequent (and popular) TV show of the same name. There are a few similarities, but this is clearly not a remake. Big-city Sandy ("The War's" Elijah Wood) goes to spend the summer with his Uncle Porter ("Crocodile Dundee's" Paul Hogan), a boondocks fisherman, but Sandy would give up anything to be able to attend an ultimate rock concert back home. Instead, he has to settle for being bored on a remote island eating the same food every day with an ex-Beach Boys roadie that hasn't changed his style of living since the '60s. The dull routine makes a turn for the better when Sandy is befriended by a dolphin he names Flipper.
   The dolphin, however, isn't the star of the movie. He does a few tricks and serves as a common link between the major characters. This is more of a bonding film between a man and a boy who need emotional and mental growth. While spending the summer together, the two learn and earn responsibility and trust. The biggest lessons here are that smoking is not good for you (there's a comic sequence in which Sandy lights up some of Unc's stogies)--and, more importantly, that showing a little affection toward someone who cares might not be so bad after all. Toxic waste, rival fishermen and natural disaster are a few of the underlying plot elements that keep audiences interested.
   In terms of the tots, the film's most shocking scene occurs when an ocean bird is snatched from the surface by a hammerhead shark, leaving a bloody trail as it's dragged underwater--rather like something out of a National Geographic predator video. But, with the help of Flipper and the comic cavortings of Uncle Porter's pet pelican, the tykes will have fun and feel safe enough to go back into the water. Starring Elijah Wood and Paul Hogan. Directed and written by Alan Shapiro. Produced by James J. McNamara and Perry Katz. A Universal release. Family drama. Rated PG for some mild language and menacing action. Running time: 95 min
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