Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Day of the Dolphin

Day of the Dolphins has the most amusing opening sequence. Scary music plays while George C. Scott tells the audience all about why dolphins are super cool. This is intercut with slow motion sequences of dolphins doing adorable dolphin activities, like throwing a ball or identifying shapes. It has the odd effect of trying to make something incredibly benign look ominous. Oh my god, it can identify shapes, it might identify people, and KILL THEM!

Another odd sequence happens soon after, where Scott goes swimming with his dolphin in a sequence cut and scored like a sex scene. I imagine it was designed to make dolphins seem lovable, but instead the result is that Scott seems to be into bestiality.

So, what is the story? Scott raised the first dolphin born in captivity, and sort of taught it to speak English. Then people who fund him want to use it to kill the president, and a fat guy investigates the whole operation. He's filmed like a villain, but he's later revealed to be good, in is a fine demonstration of the magic of film. Just by being slightly sweaty and filmed in a decidedly ominous way, he suddenly seems like a bad guy. It takes way too long to get going, the villains are comically, illogically evil ("we spent years training this dolphin to put bombs on boats, let's kill it immediately after the a test run!"), and while dolphins are fascinating creatures, they're much better suited to a well done documentary than a thriller.

I think the main problem with the movie is that it appears a script was hastily thrown together after someone decided to make a movie about the dolphin weapons. The story is quite weak, overall, trying desperately hard to make people care about the talking dolphins. It's never clear why Scott's dolphins are picked to bomb crap, nor why the president they're trying to kill is a target in the first place.

It's telling that in the DVD extras, people in the production basically admit that they realized a bit too late in the production that it wasn't a great concept, wasn't going to be a great film, and was certainly going to be a career low for them. Hell, even the dolphins ran off after their last scene, seeing full well that they really did not want to be answering questions from their dolphin friends about the stupid talking dolphin movie they were in.

It wasn't a complete waste of time, there are some moments of extremely ludicrous silliness that I enjoyed immensely. But the problem is, it assumes that dolphins are inherently interesting, and while they are certainly fascinating, they can't carry such a poor narrative.

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