"Dolphin Tale," opening Sept. 21, is about a dolphin that loses its tail in a crab trap and gets a prosthetic replacement. The kindly doctor who builds the fake tail is played by Morgan Freeman, of course. He's Hollywood's ambassador for intelligence and warmth.Video: Watch the 'Dolphin Tale' trailer (on this page)
But Freeman never coasts on his persona. He gives every character a distinct shade, and that's why audiences love his movies: It's exciting to see which version of Morgan Freeman we'll meet next.Video: ‘Dolphin Tale’ is ‘terrific story,’ says Freeman (on this page)
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Here are the best versions of the Morgan Freeman magic.
If Morgan Freeman were a fast food menu, this persona would be his Big Mac. He thrives with characters whose hard lives give them profound insights, like Red, the convicted murderer in "The Shawshank Redemption," or Eddie Dupris, the grizzled ex-boxer in "Million Dollar Baby." These guys are tougher and smarter than anyone else on screen, and if we just listen to them, we'll learn something.
Even in a comedy, Morgan Freeman is nobody's clown. He cuts up with Jack Nicholson in "The Bucket List," but after their globetrotting adventures, he tries to reunite Nicholson with his estranged daughter. He jokes his way through "Driving Miss Daisy," but he also reveals the frustration of being a black man in the segregated South. Cue the laughter through tears.
'Silent Thunder' Freeman
Some movies need a quiet Titan — a man who's powerful, yet reserved. That's Freeman's job in "Batman Begins," "The Dark Knight," and next year's "The Dark Knight Rises." He plays Lucius Fox, the mechanical genius behind Batman's equipment, and even though he never gets any credit for his designs, Freeman makes it clear that he's delighted by the top-secret science. His joy is one of the few cheery spots in a very dark franchise.
Almost holy Freeman
How's this for noble? Freeman plays Nelson Mandela in "Invictus" and God in "Bruce Almighty" and "Evan Almighty." A lesser actor would rely on "dignified looks" and "meaningful pauses," but Freeman opts for vulnerability and twinkling humor. That makes both characters more relatable.
Secretly evil Freeman
Spoiler alert! Sometimes, Freeman toys with his own image, playing characters who are secretly evil. In the supernatural action movie "Wanted," he seems like a great boss who's helping Angelina Jolie and James McAvoy … until we learn the nasty truth. It's a great twist, because the movie knows we'll never suspect Freeman is the bad guy. But because he's Morgan Freeman, it's easy to root for him anyway. He might be evil, but he's still cool.
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Mark Blankenship is on Twitter as @CritCondition
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