If you follow this blog, you know that movies are a big part of lifeschooling! Since our children were young, we have had family movie night every Saturday night almost religiously, and my older two children have even acted in Christian films (Like Arrows, The Stolen Life) and feel led to continue working in Christian film. So we’re always on the lookout for a good, clean flick that we can enjoy together!
And when I find one, I love to share it with all my friends! Last night my youngest and I watched a great new film called Dolphin Island. This film won Best Movie at the 2021 Christian Film Festival and is both Dove Approved and Kids First Approved.
The movie opens with some amazing scenery of the aquamarine waters and tropical landscape of the Bahamas as we’re introduced to Annabel and her salt-of-the-earth grandfather, appropriately named Jonah Coleridge, who live on a fishing boat in the conservation center that Annabel’s late parents started. We then meet a community of friends that surrounds them, along with Annabel’s best friend, a dolphin named Mitzy.
But this picture-perfect world of Annabel’s won’t last forever and soon we learn that her maternal grandparents, with the help of a conniving and somewhat goofy lawyer, have filed legal proceedings to have Annabel taken from her “inadequate” living arrangements to live with them in Manhattan. Annabel finds herself caught in the middle of the fight, touched by the love of her grandparents, but heartbroken at the prospect of leaving her grandfather, friends (especially Mitzy), and the only life she’s ever known.
Dolphin Island is a great movie for the whole family! Kids First, the Coalition For Quality Children’s Media awarded Dolphin Island “5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 7 to 18, plus adults.” There are elements that will appeal to your younger children, such as the cute dolphin that does tricks, as well as a story line and main character that will resonate with your older ones. It’s a fairly easy story line to follow, as well, though there are some interesting plot twists that keep it from being boring or too predictable.
What we liked:
Wholesome and Well-Executed – First of all, it’s great to find a movie that’s clean, and it’s great to find a movie with a solid story line and acting, but when you find a movie with both technical quality and a wholesome quality, you’ve found a gem! Dolphin Island meets these criteria.
Lead Character is a Role Model – Annabel is a sweet, innocent character who also displays a strong moral compass. In one scene, she scolds her newfound friend for stealing and her example encourages him to change his behavior. She is a good role model for younger children to look up to.
Beautiful Photography – The scenery was amazing! A movie is definitely more enjoyable to watch when it’s set in a tropical paradise. The photography did not disappoint!
Mitzy the Dolphin – Movies with animals are usually a hit with children and the interactions with Mitzy the dolphin were very fun! It always amazes me how these animals can be trained to do so many tricks. Be sure to watch the credits at the end for more of Mitzy and her tricks in the outtakes.
The Lawyer Character – The goofy, yet sleazy “pirate” lawyer was an amusing character that added some humorous scenarios and interactions, and the writers pulled off creating a familiar persona that did not come across as overly cliché. His appearance, in particular, was not stereotypical!
What we didn’t like:
There really was not much I would criticize about this movie, so I can’t give you a bullet-point list. There were, perhaps, a few scenes that could have been tweaked a bit for believably (such as one scene where Annabel disappears so suddenly without a trace) and there were a few lines, particularly from the maternal grandfather, that could have been delivered a little better, in my opinion, but that being said, I don’t think most of us approach a lighthearted movie like this with expectations of perfection. According to another review, the Lord’s name was taken in vain once, but I honestly didn’t catch it. Overall, there was nothing negative enough that would dissuade me from watching again, and my son enjoyed it, as well!
Lifeschooling Talking Points:
It’s always a good idea to use movies and anything else we encounter as jumping off points for more learning. The website includes a wonderful discussion guide to get you started! Here are a few more areas that you can explore more after the movie is over:
Story, plot line, and other aspects of writing – Movies are always a great way to explore these areas in a way that involves the whole family and gets some good discussions going. Even without the discussions, your children will absorb some of the foundational principles of what makes a good story, and when they study the information at some point, it will not be as much learning as confirming and putting into words what they know intuitively already. (This has been the case for my oldest, who is pursuing screenwriting as part of his career.)
Dolphins – Of course, after watching a movie called Dolphin Island, one could assume that dolphins would be a great topic of further study! But you can even let this lead you into other areas of marine life.
Purpose of education – What is the purpose of education? Is Annabel educated well, despite her out-of-the-box environment? Do you see her actual lifestyle as a big part of her education? In what ways? These are some great questions you can discuss with your family after watching the movie that will help your children to appreciate their own unique learning environment and perhaps give you confidence to some new and unconventional learning experiences.
Tropical vegetation – The opening scene alone is inspiration for studying the types of flora and fauna that grow in the islands of the Bahamas! Pause the video at places where you see new plants and see if you can identify them. If your children have a special love for botany, consider purchasing an orchid or some other tropical plant for some life learning.
History and geography of The Bahamas – How much do you know about the Bahamas? Use the film as a jumping-off point for learning the history and geography of this little island country. Do a notebook sheet for the country with an outline of the islands and color it’s flag. Find it on the map. There are many topics of interest that may evolve out of this broad exploration!
Godly Character – There are many points in the movie where you can talk about character and how our lives are affected positively or negatively by our character. One of the obvious character traits to discuss is honesty. How did Annabel’s honesty positively affect her situation and others? Anger and self-control are also good topics for discussion. How did these weaknesses affect the story? How might things have gone differently if Annabel’s grandfather had been calmer and slower to anger? This is a great opportunity for some Scripture memory work, too! James 1:19 and Ephesians 4:28 would be a good place to start.
Dolphin Island is a fun little movie that is appropriate and engaging for the entire family! There was only one swear word (though, as I mentioned, I didn’t hear it) and nothing inappropriate. While some of the scenarios may have been a little far-fetched, it was a cute story with some great moral lessons and a lot of fun! This is a movie we will be watching again and recommending to others.