We gave it a C+
The slightly older set will be hard-pressed to watch Flipper without a great big lump in the throat. The TV serie sired by both have assured that. Today’s kids, however, will probably approach this pet epic from a more dry-eyed point of view.
The boy in Flipper (Luke Halpin, who played the same role in the TV series) already has a pet pelican when he saves a wounded dolphin and becomes pals with it. Though the dolphin does tricks and even saves Halpin from sharks, Flipper doesn’t have the emotional resonance of Lassie — since not many people have pet dolphins, it’s harder to feel the child’s spiritual affinity with the creature. But there’s conflict and suspense in Flipper all the same: The boy must face the possibility that his fisherman father (Chuck Connors) might have to kill Flipper, who’s eating the scarce fish. And its underwater photography is pleasant to watch.
Kids must learn self-sacrifice, but their traumas do not leave lifelong scars. Happy endings are a given here — just as they were each week on TV. In a world of Ninja Turtles, this movie qualify as above-average family entertainment, providing kids with reasonably involving stories, and their parents with a pleasant nostalgic charge. C+