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Film review: Flipper

The most amazing thing about "Flipper" is seeing that Elijah Wood has been cast as a lanky, rebellious teenager.

And mostly the "teenager" part.

Has it really been that long since he was an 8-year-old in "Avalon"?

Watching Wood grow up in movies, ranging from "Radio Flyer" and "Forever Young" to "The Adventures of Huck Finn" and "The War," one is struck by the feeling that this talented youngster is headed for some terrific acting opportunities. Macaulay Culkin (Wood's co-star in "The Good Son") he ain't.

But with "Flipper," he's coasting — which is just what you might expect in this time-warp "family" picture, a remake that fulfills its formula trappings in a by-the-numbers, but fairly satisfying manner.

Even contemporary kids, familiar with the likes of two "Free Willy" movies and "Andre," will know very well what to expect.

Wood is the 14-year-old troubled city kid, sent by his divorced mother from Chicago to a remote island in the Bahamas, where he will spend the summer with his eccentric uncle (Paul Hogan), a former hippie and Beach Boys roadie who is now just taking it easy as a carefree fisherman.

Hogan is perfectly cast, his usual charming and easygoing self, as he tries to bring Wood out and help him enjoy his stay . . . along with feeding him a steady diet of Spaghetti-O's and bread that has been toasted with a blow torch.

Wood is at first appropriately surly — but not too surly — and eventually he will come around. Helping that happen are his relationships with Hogan's girlfriend and a local girl he meets — and, of course, Flipper.

The real conflict, however, is provided by an evil fisherman who hates dolphins (he shoots and kills one early in the film) and who, it turns out, is dumping toxic waste into the ocean. Right.

If you can forget about the plot and simply enjoy the characters and the scenery, "Flipper" is harmless family fun.

"Flipper" is rated PG for violence and a few mild profanities.