The Whale: A Sad True-Whale Tale in Vancouver, B.C.

So soon after the 3-D gore of Shark Night, we get this gentle, Bambi-level-sad documentary about an orphaned killer whale named Luna who never harmed anybody and only wanted to be loved. Separated from his pod in the San Juan Islands, puppyish Luna settled for several years in Nootka Sound (east of Vancouver Island), where he begged for human contact and play, posed for photographs, nuzzled boats, frolicked with logs and buoys, allowed children to pet him, and even enjoyed tongue scratchings without ever biting anyone. Can you guess the tragic outcome? Of course you can, since Luna's story was widely reported last decade, and filmmakers Michael Parfit and Suzanne Chisholm showed an earlier version of the film (the overoptimistically titled Saving Luna) at SIFF '08. If your children love animals, by all means take them. If you appreciate the gorgeous scenery of Vancouver Island, The Whale is a picture postcard of the region. If you simply want to indulge in warm-and-fuzzy whale-caressing scenes, this movie is also for you. What it is not, however, is remotely new. Orcaphiles Parfit and Chisholm, married ex-journalists who should know better, fudge the dates of their story, as if it happened just yesterday. And while they fluff up the conflict between the "no touching" feds and Luna-besotted locals, all parties are simply too polite, decent, and Canadian for any real drama. Families with small kids can be assured that Luna's fate isn't shown on camera, but the film packs an extra dollop of pathos: It's narrated by Vancouver's favorite son, Ryan Reynolds, and he co-produced it with Scarlett Johansson, who recently divorced him. Now that's sad.

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