Working at a Blockbuster Video during my high school years was great. I got free movies, free popcorn, and I made a lot of new friends along the way.
But Blockbuster was still a job, and the store needed to be staffed, so it was almost impossible for all of us to get together at the same time. In fact, I think this only happened three or four times during my tenure there.
One of those times came in May of 1996 when the store owner decided she was remodeling the store from top to bottom. In order to do so, the owner told us she was closing the store for two days. But the cool thing was she paid us for those days, so nobody was losing any hours. The entire staff was shocked but thankful at her gesture. Me though, I was just happy I wouldn’t be getting home at 1:30 in the morning for a change.
Anyways, with so much time off, our manager thought it would be nice if we all hung out or went out somewhere. After talking with people, it was decided we should go see a movie and then grab lunch somewhere. To this day I don’t know who decided we should see “Flipper” instead of going to see “Twister,” “Executive Decision” or any of the other possible options at the time. But no, we ended up seeing a movie about a boy and his magical dolphin.
“Flipper” was inspired by the original 1963 movie and the later TV series from that decade. I don’t remember the original movie, but my mother made me watch re-runs of the show when I was a kid. The 1996 film starred Paul Hogan and Elijah Wood, and the plot revolves around a boy who has to spend the summer with his uncle, who lives on the Florida Gold Coast.
Uncle Porter (Paul Hogan) is a free spirit who runs a fishing boat; flirts with Kathy, a local shopkeeper and former marine biologist (Chelsea Field), and blow-torches Spaghetti for dinner. Elijah Wood plays Sandy, a Chicago teenager who sees his mom sending him to Florida as a punishment. From the moment he gets to his uncle Porter’s, he expects this would be another boring summer. But that changes when he encounters a dolphin whom he names Flipper and with whom he forms a friendship.
Aside from Flipper, Sandy also becomes friends with Kim (Jessica Wesson), a cute girl about his age who is always hanging around on the beach. There’s also Marvin (Jason Fuchs), Kathy’s big-eyed little nerd of a son who turns out to be a super whiz at creating stuff. And finally, there’s Sheriff Buck (Isaac Hayes–yes, THE Isaac Hayes), who isn’t very friendly or nice to Porter or Flipper. But he’s only trying to do his job I suppose.
To give you an idea of how uninterested I was in the movie they day we saw it, later during dinner, I made a comment about them being in the Caribbean. My manager Jen said it wasn’t the Caribbean, the movie took place in Florida. So I said something about Paul Hogan leaving his son to go fishing. That’s when Jen chimed in again to let me know Hogan was Sandy’s uncle. But for the life of me, I couldn’t remember Elijah Wood ever calling him “uncle.”
The one thing I remembered clearly was the canisters of hazardous material the villain was dumping into the sea. I know it was hazardous material because it said so in large letter across each container. What I don’t remember is if the bad guy faced justice or not, or even if the damage could be undone. At the very least it would have been a long clean up, but as far as I can remember, everyone was happy at the end of the movie like nothing had happened below the surface.
The only good thing I can say about “Flipper” is that the dolphin scenes were done pretty well. I’m sure a tong of it was done with a real dolphin, but a few shots most have been with animatronics. But I couldn’t tell the difference, to swell done by whoever did the special effects on Flippy.
Oh yeah, as I started putting this post together I seemed to remember Jessica Alba being in this movie. Well, I was right and wrong. Alba did appear in “Flipper,” but not in the movie, but in a tv reboot that aired around the same time. She played a character named Maya Graham for two of the show’s four seasons. So now you know, and knowing is half the battle.
Reboots are all the rage these days, both on tv and in film. But it’s nothing new in entertainment, it has been going on for a years. Long before the current trend of rebooting old properties to various degrees of success, Hollywood tried hard to make this idea work in the 1990s with movies like “The Addams Family,” “The Beverly Hillbillies,” and yes, good old “Flipper.”