Flipper (1996 with Paul Hogan and Elijah Wood)

USA / 1996

Writer and Director: Alan Shapiro (based on the original screenplay by Arthur Weiss)

Cast: Paul Hogan, Elijah Wood, Chelsea Field, Isaac Hayes, Jonathan Banks, Jason Fuchs, Jessica Wesson, Ann Carey

Jake, Fatman and MacGyver are the real stars of this ’90s remake of the popular early ’60s film and TV series, but you won’t find them credited on the cast list. That’s because they’re the three dolphins who play Flipper in this amiable family movie. Flipper was shot on location in the Bahamas during some of the worst hurricanes of the century, but despite the inclement weather the film maintains a sunny disposition throughout.

Elijah Wood stars as Sandy Ricks, a 14-year-old boy who’d much rather be attending a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert than going to stay with his uncle Porter (Paul ‘Crocodile Dundee’ Hogan) on an offshore island in Florida. Porter is a wily old fisherman whose sea-dog ways frustrate his marine biologist girlfriend Cathy (Chelsea Field), and at first Sandy is less than enthusiastic about spending the summer sharing Porter’s run-down beach shack. Indeed, he even tries to sneak back to the mainland to attend the concert, but Porter foils his plan.

When a hurricane wrecks the fisherman’s boat and accommodation, he makes Sandy a deal: repair the house and Porter himself will take him to the concert. Sandy is distracted, though, by a dolphin he’s protecting from Porter’s rival, Dirk (Jonathan Banks). Dirk has already killed the rest of the dolphin’s family, blaming them for driving away the fish. There’s something even more fishy going on however and Sandy and Cathy’s daughter Kim (Jessica Wesson) are suspicious when Flipper becomes ill when he’s taken out to sea. They decide to trail Dirk to find out if he’s involved.

Using a combination of real-life dolphins and animatronics, Flipper is more reminiscent of those other ’90s aquatic mammal movies Free Willy and Andre than the original TV series. However, one throwback to the original is provided by the casting of the first Sandy, Luke Halpin, in a cameo role as a bounty fisherman.