Film Highlight: The Cove

Dolphins jumping with boat, on location for <i>The Cove</i>, directed by Louie Psihoyos

Dolphins jumping with boat, on location for The Cove, directed by Louie Psihoyos

The forthrightly activist but fun-loving documentary The Cove has a natural hero and reformed sinner in Ric O'Barry, a former trainer of dolphins for the popular 1960s television series Flipper who now spends his days slipping into Japan in silly disguises, getting arrested by undercover police, and being attacked by irate fishermen at the pretty cove where dolphins are culled for export or killed. O'Barry is far from the only performance artist in this rousing blend of faux-thriller, horror movie, and farce. Juiced by director Louie Psihoyos's showboating instincts and righteous rage—he's Michael Moore minus the bile and self-importance—The Cove is an exuberant and often very funny story of how a team of authority-averse stuntmen, divers, and designers worked together to record the mass murder of these lovely mammals. Skillful and hugely entertaining as it is, I'm not sure The Cove would be as potent as it is if the subject were less attractive. A made-for-Disney subspecies if ever there was one, dolphins are the Goldie Hawns of endangered species—bright, funny, playful, and, by some freak of nature, appearing to be grinning most of the time. The Cove is properly enchanting, horrifying, and rousing, but it comes dangerously close to making the narcissistic case that dolphins deserve to be saved because they're cute and breathe air like we do. But then where does that leave the overfished salmon I went home to poach after the movie?