Dolphin Island (2021)

10 years after a girl lost her parents and became the charge of her paternal grandfather, her maternal grandparents show up and demand to get custody of her as she lives on an island with her grandfather and her dolphin, something they consider to be less-than and want to fix asap, no matter what it takes.

Written by Shaked Berenson, Mike Disa, and Rolfe Kanefsky, with Disa directing, Dolphin Island has a fairly simple story, seen many times before, but in a new setting, that being a the beautiful Bahamas. The story is simple, and said has been seen before, and here it is kept to its basic simplest, 2 potential guardians for a minor are fighting as to who gets to keep here. Here one grandpa is a simple life type of man who uprooted his life to take care of his granddaughter and one grandpa, accompanied by grandma, who lives the high life of a rich New Yorker wants to buy his way into guardianship after a decade.

The good and bad guys are quite clear cut here and there is not much wonder as to what is going to happen, even as the story tries to introduce twists and one more villain. The way this new bad guy is introduced is a bit cliche and honest, he comes off as one of those caricatures of a bad lawyer, trying to grease the wheels of justice and buy his way to victory. He’s sleazy and he’s not meant to have any redeeming factor whatsoever, making him a one-dimensional character. A lot of the other characters here are quite one dimensional and this leads to just not caring about a single one of them, something that is quite necessary in a film like this. Yes, it’s a family film, and yes, it’s a smaller budget film, but neither of these factor excuse the writing or directing here and both come off as either not knowing what they are doing or not caring.

The cast also comes off as not caring about what they are doing in general. So, on top of the cringe-worthy dialog, the deliver is oftentimes wooden or completely off. There is no nuance here in general, except here and there from Peter Woodward as the widowed island grandpa who only wants the best for his granddaughter. However, the script doesn’t give him a whole lot to do in terms of emotional work and he ends up coming off as if he gives up too easily. The one performance that should be noted here is that of Aaron Burrows as teen Mateo Rolle as he does try to tunr in a decent performance and gets to have the most interesting one in the film by simply looking more natural than the rest of the cast. Also, it must be noted that dolphin Mitzy gets only a few scenes and this will make some want to look for more dolphin in a film named after the animal.

The cinematography by Shaun Hart starts off looking decent, good even, and then as the story comes into play and the setting becomes more of a background thing, it becomes more generic. This is a completely missed opportunity to use the location and make a stunning film out easily. Getting a few more great looking scenes could have raised the bar within the film and made it something more interesting overall. The editing by Steven C. Miller is decent and works with the footage provided well. The music by Chase Horseman is frustrating in that he usually does so much better than this. This is his most generic feeling work and it’s a bummer.

Horror fans will notice a lot of familiar names in here, from Shaked Berenson who has produced some great stuff to Rolf Kanefsky who has directed some fun films, to Steven C. Miller and Chase Horseman, everyone here has done decent to great work in horror which somehow doesn’t translate here. Dolphin Island is a film that feels like a missed opportunity for just about everyone involved. It may be a family movie and lower budget one, but it feels like it doesn’t try. A better effort would have shown through the budget and made the most of its limitations as a family film. This one comes off as something of an after-thought, something that was put together quickly, perhaps on a request by a studio, something that should have been a lot better and that is why watching it becomes a frustrating experience.

No matter is this film is for you or not, the Bahamas has been hit by hurricanes and is in need of help.

To that end, the National Association of the Bahamas based in Miami has set up a Hurricane Relief Fund: http://www.nabmiami.org/donate/