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movie review out of 4 Movie Review: Flipper

Starring: Elijah Wood, Paul Hogan
Director: Alan Shapiro
Rated: PG
RunTime: 96 Minutes
Release Date: May 1996
Genres: Family, Kids

*Also starring: Chelsea Field, Isaac Hayes, Jessica Wesson, Jonathan Banks, Jason Fuchs, Robert Deacon, Mark Casella, Luke Halpin

Review by Steve Rhodes
1 star out of 4

Let's say you want to make money, I mean make a movie. First, you acquire the rights to a kids' TV show which was popular in the 60s, "Flipper." Next you line up a sure fire and likable star, Paul Hogan from CROCODILE DUNDEE fame. You get a known child actor, Elijah Wood (AVALON, RADIO FLYER, THE ADVENTURES OF HUCK FINN, THE WAR and NORTH). Finally, your piece de resistance is the show will feature an animal so naturally charming that surely riches must yours for the taking.

Well, it's not that easy. If you get a lame script from an fairly inexperienced screenwriter (Alan Shapiro), and a similarly inexperienced director (also Alan Shapiro) who is unable to breathe any life into the film, all of your other good ideas will be nullified. This show has such little energy it may put you to sleep. Count yourself extremely fortunate if this happens.

The setup for the plot is that Uncle Porter (Paul Hogan) is being paid by his sister to keep his 14 year old nephew Sandy Ricks (Elijah Wood) for the summer. Uncle Porter lives in a fishing village that is going broke because a bad guy, Dirk Moran (Jonathan Banks), is dumping toxic waste into the waters nearby. Sandy finds an adorable dolphin which he names Flipper. Flipper becomes attached to him and follows him around. The film is pure formula from beginning to end.

The script attempts both physical and verbal humor and both fall flat. An example of the visual jokes is the way Uncle Porter makes toast which is by pushing white bread onto a nail in a metal wall and then using a blow torch to create instant toast. It sounds funnier that it is on the screen. A gross piece of humor is that Sandy throws up all over himself, but never gets around to putting on a clean shirt. I am talking caked on vomit a half inch thick which completely covers the front of the shirt.

Since the uncle smokes big cigars, Sandy tries them as well. His uncle lets him do this until he gets sick. I think it makes underage smoking look cool if you are macho enough not to get sick, which is the wrong message to give to the film's intended audience. The language is silly, but at least it is clean. A typical insult is when Uncle Porter calls someone a "butt faced wombat."

The script has a few nice lines. Uncle Porter warns Sandy, "You're going to have to use your brain which is going to hurt because it's the weakest muscle in your body." Another is when Dirk threatens Porter with "I ought to teach you a lesson." Porter retorts, "I'd like that. I have a thirst for knowledge; teach me."

To make sure the audience understand how evil Dirk is, they have him shoot dolphins with a high powered rifle from his boat, which is called Bounty Hunter. Similarly, to remind the audience how in awe they should be of the dolphins, the cinematographer (Bill Butler) uses lots of orange filters to give the jumping dolphins a mystical look.

The acting is pretty awful. Paul Hogan does not play Uncle Porter. Instead he delivers a weak rendition of the old Paul Hogan. Think of it as Paul Hogan with most of his life blood sucked out as if there was a vampire picture being filmed on the next lot. Elijah Wood's performance is so detached it is like an out-of-body experience. Only Flipper seems up to his assignment, but he is not given much interesting to do. Tossing a soda can from off screen, does not a moving performance make. Jessica Wesson (MILK MONEY and CASPER) plays Sandy's friend Kim. If they had done something with this romantic angle it might have been a refreshing change of pace, but it is never developed much.

FLIPPER runs 1:35. It is rated PG and nothing offensive happens. There is no sex, nudity, bad language, and little violence. My easy to please son Jeffrey (age 7) gives film a thumbs up, but only for kids 5 and up. He feels like the attack by Scar, the hammer head shark, may scare little kids. I'm glad Jeffrey liked the show, but I hated it. I am still amazed that they could take such a likable star as Flipper and make such an inanimate movie. A big thumbs down from me and a rating of a single *.

Copyright 1996 Steve Rhodes

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