While many nature films sometimes struggle for a sense of personality or go for the essence of shock and awe with the degree of technical prowess, the essence of the humor of the situation is touch and go. With some celebrity narrators it works and, at other times, it seems either too wooden and lacking in connection. In “Dolphin Reef”, there is a different approach. Whether it is better or not remains to be seen. But Natalie Portman brings herself to the reading. Having met her many times, there is a sense of fun but balance with an essence of value and seriousness behind her presentation. She is not afraid of making a joke at her own expense, if it is the right one. That is why many of the vignettes work here because it waxes at times both funny and maybe a little awkward but always heartfelt. “Dolphin Reef” isn’t inherently about the dolphins but more about the community of animals that make up this area. It starts off following a young male Dolphin named Echo with his mother. Having in the past few years become a mother herself, that essence of the story seems very authentic and plays very well on Portman’s behalf. This is a piece of artistic work that she can show her children and definitely balances within the Disney structure that maybe has been too slick in its docos lately. Many of them have felt like certain mirrors to BBC’s productions (which are sometimes done in concert). This one feels more Disney which is helped by the fact of Portman’s continuing collaboration with the Disney company. The circle of life as shown through the different ideas of life both with fear of night, cleaning spots for turtles and an especially fun mantis shrimp which has to deal with falling debris from parrotfish, This gives the short feature a nice balance leading into a story of humpback whales which revolves around to mating and protection in the animal kingdom. Considering her real world advocacy and rightfully so, it is also nice to see Portman reflecting in the narration of the natural course in the wild since there is balance in nature.”Dolphin Reef” is inherently watchable as it is a story of family but it also doe not shy away from the comedy of life.
By Tim Wassberg