The very existence of Dolphin Tale 2 is pretty strange. It's pretty difficult to even think of another sequel to a movie that's based on true events. It's tough enough to find one story worth turning into a movie from a particular milieu. It seems nearly impossible to find two. And sure enough, Dolphin Tale 2 waddles along with no real story to tell. It swims around in circles, its characters given very little power to affect their situation.
Since the events of the last movie, Sawyer (Nathan Gamble) has continued working with Winter, a dolphin that was given a special tail prosthesis. His work has attracted the attention of a prestigious marine biology program, and he's been given a special opportunity to go to Boston to study on scholarship. But Winter has been having a lot of trouble following the death of her older dolphin companion, making Sawyer reluctant to leave. The aquarium is at risk of losing Winter if Sawyer and his friends can’t find her another companion.
The movie keeps a lot out of the hands of the characters. There isn't really a whole lot they can do to better their situation. The first half of this movie mostly involves the characters waiting around for a solution to their problem. The movie only really starts when the aquarium conveniently finds another female dolphin in need of rescue, the story then shifting to document the difficult process of pairing two unfamiliar dolphins.
But even then the characters just aren't given a lot of control over events. At one point, the movie cuts to a little kid in the audience, watching the tense reintroduction of the two dolphins. She tells her mother "I hope they like each other." That sums up the entirety of the movie. It's just a bunch of people standing around, hoping that these two animals won't kill each other. As expressive and wondrous as dolphins can be, they are still ill equipped to deliver any sort of real narrative through their animal interactions. The movie invests way too much in the potential drama of a pair of marine mammals getting along. It is an investment that does not pay off.
The severe lack of material causes the movie to flit around between a bunch of underdeveloped subplots. There is a tepid bit of teenage romance somewhere in there, but it doesn't go anywhere. There are shades of teenage angst, but it all rings false. The acting is completely unremarkable, the actors all phoning in their performances. Granted, there is still some enjoyment to be mined from even the laziest of Morgan Freeman roles, but it doesn't really make any of this worth watching. Nathan Gamble and Cozi Zuehlsdorff are the humans given the most to do, but their bits of drama are still too bland to generate mich interest.
Dolphin Tale 2 ends with real footage of the dramatic dolphin rescue that formed the basis for the movie. And that footage, separated from the demands of narrative cinema, is far more compelling than anything else in the film. This sequel tries to make a movie out of material that doesn't exactly fit the form of a mainstream picture. The movie just fizzles out, its dramatic core bereft of human conflict, all of its emotion having to come from non-verbal creatures.