‘Dolphin Tale 2’: Now they’re just treading water

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Sawyer (Nathan Gamble) and Hazel (Cozi Zuehlsdorff) play with Winter in “Dolphin Tale 2.” | WARNER BROS.

In 2011, “Dolphin Tale” turned out to be a big hit, as the family-oriented film brought the true story of the dolphin Winter and her amazing rescue, recovery and her groundbreaking prosthetic tail to audiences around the world.

Now the same team — cast, crew and director (and film co-star) Charles Martin Smith — are all back with a sequel that brings everyone up to date.

This time, Winter goes into a deep funk after her beloved older dolphin “mentor” Panama dies. A crisis atmosphere develops at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Clearwater Beach, Florida, as Dr. Clay Haskett (Harry Connick Jr.), young protégé Sawyer Nelson (Nathan Gamble), Haskett’s daugher Hazel (Cozi Zuehlsdorff) and the rest of the team realize Winter might have to be moved to another facility unless a compatible female companion could be found.

The arrival of young dolphin Hope is possibly the answer — but only if she and Winter click.

Suffice it to say, this second film is again heartwarming and includes some nice performances from Connick, Gamble and Morgan Freeman as Dr. Cameron McCarthy, who developed that unique prosthetic for Winter.

For some reason I felt everyone involved here was merely going through the motions. In the dramatic moments, the needy tension is simply lacking. While the dolphins are surely the real stars here, it would have been nice if Connick, Ashley Judd (who plays Sawyer’s mom) and the rest of the human cast had some more compelling lines — rather than the very trite and predictable dialogue they deliver for us.

It should be noted, however, that while this film lacks a lot of the emotional impact of the original “Dolphin Tale,” it is a privilege to remain connected to the continuing tale — so to speak — of the characters here.

[s3r star=2.5/4]

Warner Bros. Pictures presents a film written and directed by Charles Martin Smith. Running time: 108 minutes. Rated PG (for some mild thematic elements). Opens Friday at local theaters.

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