Flipping the Same Old Tale
Haven't we been here before, I don't mean the fact that "Flipper" is loosely based upon a 60s movie and TV show but because we have a troubled teen and an animal. I suppose mid 90s the child and animal tale was a money spinner, there were the "Free Willy" movies plus "Andre" and "Fly Away Home" also arrived in 1996 and so audiences definitely enjoyed them. But the trouble is that whilst we have a dolphin instead of a whale or a sea lion and there is more comedy "Flipper" basically follows the same story that many of these movies follow. Troubled teen, meets animal which becomes their best friend, animal ends up saving teen's life and teen saves animal's life whilst also helping the teen to not be so troubled. It's predictable and whilst still entertaining there is little to "Flipper" which makes it stand out from the crowd.
Sandy Ricks (Elijah Wood - The War) is a disillusioned teen who finds himself forced to spend the summer with his Uncle Porter (Paul Hogan - Crocodile Dundee II) at his ramshackle beach home in Coral Key. Less than thrilled about spending time with an Uncle whose idea of cooking is to make toast with a blow torch Sandy soon finds himself a friend in a dolphin who he names Flipper. But the local fishermen don't want a fish eating dolphin hanging around especially Dirk Moran (Jonathan Banks) who as well as wanting Flipper dead is also responsible for dumping toxic chemicals off shore and threatening the wildlife by doing so.
So as already mentioned "Flipper" is loosely based upon the 1963 movie and TV series, with character names and story ideas being incorporated in this updated version. Some may call it a remake but I would say it was an attempt to use a familiar character to create another troubled teen and animal movie to capitalize on their popularity during the 90s. As such "Flipper" is almost a text book tale as we watch Sandy arrive in Coral Key to spend the summer with his Uncle, troubled from something to do with his father and not wanting to be at his Uncle's dive of a beach home. And being a text book story we watch as Sandy makes friend with Flipper the dolphin with each of them saving each others lives whilst dealing with some environmentally unfriendly bad guys. All of which leads to Sandy bonding with his Uncle and leaving Coral Key a happier more grown up teen.
Now in fairness whilst "Flipper" ends up little more than just a reworking of the troubled teen and animal storyline it is entertaining, well lets be honest dolphins doing tricks are fun to watch. And the various moments of nature photography, a must have element of these sorts of movies, is just as entertaining as we are taken below the waves and into an underwater kingdom. Even the moments of comedy with Uncle Porter being so laid back he makes toast with a blow torch are entertaining as are the humorous attempts at bonding with Sandy. But these moments stick out in what is a very routine and extremely predictable movie which you could almost set your watch by for when some crucial moment will arrive. Maybe I am being harsh as young children will enjoy "Flipper" and not care that it is unoriginal, they won't even notice, but for anyone older there is little to make it stick in your mind for being different.
As for the acting well whilst there is nothing bad but it is as unforgettable as the story with Elijah Wood playing a typical troubled teen, Jonathan Banks being nasty as the evil Dick Moran and Chelsea Field being beautiful and funny as Cathy. Thankfully at least Paul Hogan as Uncle Porter delivers plenty of daft comedy and laid back charm, it may be similar to what Hogan had done before in the simplistic way Porter goes about life but at least watching him make breakfast with a blow torch or punch holes in a coconut with his fingers is amusing.
What this all boils down to is that basically "Flipper" is no different to numerous other troubled teen and animal movies which came out in the 90s. It may use the character names from the popular 60s series but what it does with them is as routine as they come and whilst young children may enjoy it there is little for anyone else who finds themselves in front of this.