Saturday, September 01, 2007

Teen participated to dolphin therapy

If you've always secretly believed that the cure for heartache is hitching a ride on a dolphin's fin, then "Eye of the Dolphin" might work for you a bit.

This unassuming, but sadly unexciting, family film stars Carly Schroeder as 14-year-old Alyssa, whose troubles since the death of her mother have landed her in hot water. Her grandmother (Katharine Ross) figures it's time Alyssa has a change of scene, so she drops a bombshell: The father Alyssa has never known and presumed to be dead is actually alive in the Bahamas. Off Alyssa goes to surprise her dad, James (Adrian Dunbar), a somewhat dissolute researcher in wild-dolphin behavior.

After a bumpy start, father and daughter make some sense of their unexpected relationship. Just in time, too: James' controversial work is under serious threat, and Alyssa proves a resourceful help. But there is a poignant conflict: James is trying to return dolphins to the open sea, but Alyssa finds long-sought catharsis in frolicking with them, jeopardizing dad's goal.

"Eye of the Dolphin" has every reason to be a memorable film, even a classic, but somehow it can't convey its own rich opportunity. Co-writer and director Michael D. Sellers' impressionistic images of the exotic setting should be enticing, but they're not.

The obligatory scene where self-involved James gets past initial resistance to Alyssa is happily free of treacle. But its flat matter-of-factness doesn't get the movie anywhere, either.

Young Schroeder acts her heart out for a lost cause and manages to create a couple of powerful moments. The scene when her character decides to ride with a dolphin pal has an almost lusty zeal to it, hinting at a deeper level of psychological insight than this film is capable of exploring.

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"