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maryann johanson | watching movies at home

Tribeca ’07: Eye of the Dolphin (review)

Are you saying I have a daughter? How’d that happen? / It’s called sex, Dad.

Family films tend to suffer from an overabundance of sentimental sap, but this delightful drama about a father and a daughter rediscovering each other avoids that fate without giving up any of its sweet gentleness. The signs don’t look good at the outset: 14-year-old Alyssa (Carly Schroeder: Mean Creek) is “troubled,” and we know this because she wears too much dark eye makeup and scowls behind her iPod. But she rapidly transcends cliché (as does the film), blossoming into a real person as the story takes her from the psychologically stifling Southern California suburbs to the Bahamas research facility where her dad, Dr. James Hawk (Adrian Dunbar: Kidnapped), who didn’t even know she existed till she showed up, is trying to talk to dolphins. And though it seems the potential for goop might rise the moment cute performing animals are introduced, it doesn’t happen: the rocky road to happiness for the little family actually blends very nicely with a kicking and screaming toward environmental awareness for the small beach town that seems more willing to trade dolphin love and possible scientific breakthroughs in interspecies communications for tourist dollars. (Thankfully, the metaphoric comparison with wild dolphins and wild teenagers is never overplayed.) Last year’s Best Drama at the International Family Film Festival is screening as part of the Tribeca Family Festival, a mini event within the larger festival featuring kid-safe films, a street fair on Saturday, May 5, and more.

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MPAA: rated PG for thematic elements and language

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