“Eye of the Dolphin” will open on Friday, Aug. 24, at AMC Woodlands Square, Oldsmar.
Take a troubled teen who wears too much dark eyeliner; pair her with her fanatic scientist dad who never even knew she existed; throw in some performing dolphins and an environmentally-friendly bias. Sounds too formulaic, doesn’t it? Funny thing ... it works this time around.
“Eye of the Dolphin” will open on Friday, Aug. 24, at AMC Woodlands Square 20, 3128 Tampa Road, Oldsmar – the only theater in Pinellas to add the movie to its lineup. Call 727-771-2883.
Without being too syrupy to swallow, “Eye of the Dolphin” uses familiar benchmarks as its backstory: A former straight-A high school student haunted by the death of her mother, a guardian grandmother at her wit’s end and an innovative yet irresponsible father figure.
The central character, 14-year-old Alyssa (played by Carly Schroeder), has been in a downward spiral since her mother died in a boating accident. Deviating from standard family-friendly fare, Alyssa’s despair is not limited to wearing gothy threads and talking back to school officials: There’s ample evidence that she’s on a more catastrophic fast-track, including alcohol, drugs and the implication of suicidal thoughts.
Her grandmother Lucy, played by Katharine Ross, admits that Alyssa may be more than she can handle. Her decision to introduce the teen to her absent father shows courage and ingenuity.
The father, James Hawk (played by Adrian Dunbar), is a caricature of the driven scientist, so wrapped up in researching the language of dolphins that he can hardly find the time to contemplate parenthood. Of course, there is a parallel here – Hawk’s difficulty communicating with dolphins is analogous with his difficulty (and everyone else’s) communicating to a teenager. That comparison is not underscored, fortunately.
Hawk’s girlfriend, played by Christine Adams, challenges the “evil stepmother” cliché. The character lays out the blueprints of parenthood for Hawk by becoming a surrogate mother and best friend to Alyssa in her hour of need.
Adams, along with George Harris who plays her well-meaning but occasionally forthright father, truly stands out in this film. Harris is a veteran actor, most recently seen on the big screen playing Kingsley Shacklebolt in “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.” Adams, a British actress, has made the rounds on British television shows including “My Family” and “Doctor Who.”
The movie establishes a timeframe, too, which is always helpful. References, such as Alyssa’s dependence on her iPod and the lingering devastation of 2004’s Hurricane Jeanne, may be small details, but they help to establish and enrich the setting. Most of the story unfolds in the Bahamas, by the way. The lush, tropical landscape and the glimpse into Bahaman culture alone are worth the price of admission.
“Eye of the Dolphin” has earned itself a plethora of awards, including Feature Film Winner in Drama and Best Child Actor for Schroeder from the International Family Film Festival.