Majorino Fun as the Seal Steals the Show
"Andre" is what it is, a nice tale of a young girl and a seal, full of fun scenes which will delight younger audiences whilst also delivering a semi message about pets and growing up. It's by no means a great movie and it's hard to ignore that whilst based on a true story ends up sharing more than a few similarities with various Lassie movies, yes the seal, belovedly named Andre, saves the day. But that doesn't matter because "Andre" has no pretensions of greatness it wants to be a family movie and it achieves it.
The year is 1962 and whilst young Toni Whitney (Tina Majorino - Corrina, Corrina) may struggle to make friends at school she makes up for it by being friends with the menagerie of animals which live with her family. When her father Harry (Keith Carradine - The Long Riders), the local harbour master, brings home a baby seal Toni finds herself a new best friend as she helps rear the young pup that she names Andre, teaching it tricks. But with the local fishermen struggling to make a living and causing trouble for Harry as he helps Toni look after the seal it may be that their friendship will be short lived.
The storyline to "Andre" is a familiar one; we have a young girl who appears not to quite fit in with her classmates and so makes friends with all the animals living at her home, which includes the baby seal which her harbour master father brings home. And as such she gets close to the seal with it becoming her best friend as it learns tricks etc etc. But of course young children and animals means there has to be heart break as the time comes for the seal to go, not before it saves the day though and shows loyalty to the young girl. All of which has been done in various other movies using one animal or another, although "Andre" is based on a true story and in classic true story form we have a narrator interjecting once in a while to bridge the gap between scenes.
But whilst the storyline feels familiar it is the way director George Miller uses it which makes it work. As already mentioned "Andre" is very much a family movie, something made to delight younger audiences and Miller knows this filling it with cute scenes of the young seal pup followed by it learning tricks, blowing raspberries and basically taking on a human persona as it becomes everyone's best friends. From an adult perspective it's all rather obvious and quite sickly sweet but the innocent fun will delight younger audiences as Andre entertains crowds down at the harbour.
Aside from being purely entertainment "Andre" is also a movie which tries to teach a lesson, one about wild animals being just that and that as a child we have to say goodbye. It's not the best worked message, almost an after thought which comes towards the end of the movie which in turn drags "Andre" out for another 5 minutes of what for me were superfluous scenes. But again as a way of teaching young children a few lessons about loyalty and animals it will work.
What is rather corny is that "Andre" ends up coming across all Lassie like with the seal saving the day. I know this is a true story and I hope this saving the day scene is not manufactured but how it comes across is almost corny as a back story about a jealous and angry fisherman leads to the not so unexpected trouble. It ends up feeling wrong, a thorn in the side of what otherwise is a pleasant story.
Despite this issue "Andre" is a good movie and much of that is down to the casting especially of the adorable Tina Majorino as Toni Whitney. Majorino fills the screen with cuteness and in those fun seal training scenes she exudes the fun which makes you laugh as Andre and Toni entertain with their animal tricks. And alongside her is Keith Carradine as her father Harry who although seems to be playing the character down makes the relationship between father and daughter work, even if it is a bit over sweet at times.
What this all boils down to is that "Andre" is by no means a great movie but it is good family entertainment. Despite being based on a true story it covers familiar ground as we watch a young girl and seal become best friends but it does what it wants and that is to entertain, make you laugh, makes you smile and you can safely leave young children to watch it without any worries.