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BMZ Review: Dolphins
By Ross Anthony


I Need You Like This Hole In My Head
Written by: Ross Anthony
Source: Ross Anthony's Hollywood Report Card
Date: 2000


Category: Reviews

How can you not like a film about dolphins? Surfin' the waves, jettisoning into the air, squeakin', clickin', and clappin' those little fins. Who doesn't like dolphins?

Having always seemed to miss a "herd" of dolphins leaping in the distance off the coast of California, I looked forward to these playful water-dynamic mammals captured in the aquarium of the IMAX® screen.

Primarily a documentary, the film visits several marine biologists (M.B.) in efforts to learn more about these friendly flippers. One M.B. studies the physics of the fin, but doesn't explore it in any great depth. Another M.B. attempts to decipher language and still another probes intelligence. One of the most fascinating theories is that that these animals confer before leaping. The implication: they discuss the matter under water then create a surface-splattering jumping display as a group.

But a segment with Dean Bernal who meets and swims with a wild bottlenose named JoJo on a daily basis stocks perhaps the warmest story. JoJo displaying an appreciation of their emotional bond had once protected Dean from an encroaching hammerhead.

The segments are twice segued with fantastic map animations. As if rolling in on the wing of a plane we zip into the map from above, cartoon ships putt-putt across the oceans and an occasional dolphin illustration breaks the surface of the sea. Then just when you've orientated yourself to the Bahamas, a hurricane peals the colorful map from the screen leaving the actual island in "plane view" ... very creative and very slick. The film could have used a couple three more such glossy transitions.

Fun Facts From the Film:

*  Efficient breathers, dolphins can hold their breath for eight minutes (yes, in a row.)

*  Dangers to dolphins include: sharks, tuna nets, and pollution. An actual clip of film shot on a tuna ship is included.

*  Their eyes move independently. (eye.E.: one can look up while the other down.) The film provides a nice visual portrayal of this ability by putting you in the driver's seat (so to speak).

*  Dolphins use echolocation to pinpoint hiding fishes under the sand. Depicted as a sort of heat x-ray, this is nicely explained in the visual also.

*  Dolphins sometimes bite - at least "dozens" of people have been bitten, so says the film.

Debatable Facts From the Film:

*  Dolphins are practically the only other species besides us that call each other by name. Hmmm once on a ranch in Montana, I heard sheep call each other by name (at least I though so). How would we know what other animals call themselves by name?

*  The film claims that bottlenose dolphins are the "most intelligent and therefore easiest to train." Really? A teacher I spoke with after the film said that some of the most intelligent kids are the hardest to train because they're too smart to ... (I don't know ...) balance a ball on their nose. But, anyway, smart or not, dolphins certainly seem like they'd make very good friends.

In fact, when a spiraling flipper zips out of the water directly toward a vertically suspended camera freeze framing the charmingest of smiles, like Porky Pig at the end of some cartoon, of course, you'll just want to reach out and shake its hand (er, ah, fin).

One of the film's freshest images captures a small group of dolphins taking turns munching on a school of anchovies (referred to as a baitball) from below while a flock of gulls peck at them from above.

I quite enjoyed the humans swimming a dance with the dolphins. The ocean-going leaps of small herds of dolphins also captivated me. But, I wanted more! More time, more dolphins, more close!

Pierce does a fine job of narration while Sting provides the music. Did you know his real name was Gordon Matthew Summer (Sting not Pierce)? So named for a black and yellow sweater he once wore at a performance (learned that from the press kit).

Overall, pleasant and fun, it'll keep a smile plastered on your face for the first five minutes, before it dips a bit into documentary pace. A few more map-equivalent transitions or Dolphin-leaping-into-the-cam shots would have clinched this cute film an A-.

IMAX® is a registered trademark of IMAX Corporation.

Copyright (C) 2000. 
Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia.  For more reviews visit:

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BMZ Review of Dolphins by Herb Lash

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