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BMZ Review: Dolphins
By Herb Lash


BMZ Review of Dolphins
Written by: Herb Lash
Source: Big Movie Zone
Date: Feb 2001


Category: Reviews

Female Dolphins talk three times more than males... Draw you your own conclusions from this, but MacGillvary Freeman's Dolphins makes a compelling case that dolphin and human minds share a great deal in common. The documentary is of the fun variety - soft science and rousing adventure are doled out in equal portions. The dolphin is an easy creature to love, but as is often the case, human love is not always such a good thing. Dolphins is most compelling for its message of compassion and understanding.

Pierce Brosnan narrates the film in a laid back style and we are at once introduced to a few of the more than 40 species of dolphins. Spinners, Stark Duskies, Bottle Nosed and even Amazon River dolphins are given their due. A whirlwind overview of the species is well delivered and accompanied by the sort of dolphin shots one comes to expect from these thrilling animals.

 The "Flipper" notion of the tame, always friendly and obedient dolphin is dispelled rather early - these are wild animals, with teeth and they are not afraid to use them on humans if necessary. Having made this clear, Dolphins goes on to show a wild dolphin with a lighter disposition - one that gives kisses to a dog leaning over the bow of a boat. Man has proven far less friendly to dolphins, shocking video footage shows the agonizing deaths suffered by dolphins caught in tuna nets.  The hazards of pollution are also touched upon in examining the human/dolphin relationship.

Friendly-faced marine biologists Kathleen and Alesandro take us on a Bahaman swim with Atlantic Spotted dolphins as they do their best to make sense of the dolphin language. A dizzying array of rapid-fire clicks and whistles comprise the typical conversation. Kathleen films and records their voices and movements  - she explains in easy terms the joy and difficulty of her work.  Far away in the West Indies, marine biologist Dean Burnell explores the more ephemeral world of dolphin emotion. Troublesome dolphin JoJo was in danger of wearing out the patience of local scuba and snorkel divers, until he met up with Dean. The two have been swimming together nearly every day for the last several years. Dean expresses the depth and the limits of their shared emotional attachment - all the while we watch them swim, dance and cavort through crystal clear waters.

Dolphins seems intended for a youthful fieldtrip type audience, but skillful filmmaking sets it apart from the typical wildlife documentary. The film's music comes by way of Sting, reggae inflected beats set just the right tone of frolic, fun and inspiration. This sort of freewheeling spirit is also reflected in the clever, wacky use of animated maps that peel and blow off the screen. A trip to Sea World is about the only way to have more fun with dolphins.

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