Making the Grades
How many children's movies have you seen where in the first few minutes the featured child is separated from his parents? Flipper, like many other movies, uses this same tired opening as Sandy (Elijah Wood), is sent to live with his Uncle Porter (Paul Hogan) for the summer while his parents figure out the meaning of divorce. Not to be outdone, Uncle Porter is also divorced and down on marriage. If that's not enough, in the first moments of dolphins frolicking happily in the ocean, the bad guy, Dirk Moran (Jonathan Banks), starts shooting at Flipper's family, killing what appears to be Flipper's mother or father.
Now that all possible parenting connections are separated or destroyed, we are ready to begin the usual story of boy meets animal, and watch as they comfort each other, save the world, and do back flips. To make things more interesting, a typical environmental plot is tossed into the waters, as evil Dirk is busy unloading toxic waste for a little money on the side.
There are some positive situations buried in this ocean of despair. A just and fair police officer is included and Sandy becomes more responsible and concerned about others as he begins to bond with Flipper. Of course, no boy should have to spend the summer on a tropical island without some female attention, so Kim (Jessica Wesson) is brought into the story in what seems a love interest. Happily, their friendship is strengthened by working together to help the dolphins rather than the usual physical attraction.
Meanwhile, as Dirk dumps his poison in the ocean, Uncle Porter dumps a good deal of toxic waste into the minds of the young audience this movie is marketed to, as he guzzles Budweiser beer, smokes huge cigars, and utters the odd curse with nary a thought. Porter does try to teach that smoking is wrong, but the lesson is lost as he continues puffing through the film. This is one movie where parents and children shouldn't be separated, but instead should be watching together.