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This real-life fish tale is funny and heartwarming — and made for the movies

From left: Anthony Gonzalez, Dennis Quaid, Miguel Angel Garcia and Jimmy Gonzales in “Blue Miracle.” (Carlos Rodriguez/Netflix)
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(3 stars)

In 2014, Hurricane Odile ravaged Mexico’s Baja California peninsula, laying waste to an orphanage called Casa Hogar. Weeks later, a group of boys and their mentor caught a 382-pound blue marlin in Bisbee’s Black & Blue Fishing Tournament, earning more than $250,000 in prize money and saving their beloved home.

It’s a made-for-the-movies story, but in the wrong hands it could be just another corny fable about an anonymous, ragtag group of underdogs coming from behind to win the day. Luckily, “Blue Miracle” dodges all those bullets. Thanks to the taste and shrewd judgment of director Julio Quintana, this funny, heartwarming movie provides just the right combination of adventure, character-driven humor, spiritual depth and inspirational uplift.

Jimmy Gonzales plays Papa Omar, the leader of Casa Hogar who is in constant motion trying to keep his young charges in line. One little boy continually runs away, sleeping on the streets of Cabo San Lucas; the others hew to a familiar melting pot of class clown, bookworm and shy introvert — a ragtag crew indeed, made all the more so when a pickpocket named Moco (Miguel Angel Garcia) shows up. Omar immediately recognizes one more lost soul to rescue, but — in an impressively staged sequence — Odile interrupts those plans. When the tournament decides to waive the entry fee for locals, American boat captain Wade Malloy (Dennis Quaid) uses Omar and the Casa Hogar gang to take advantage of the loophole. (In 2014, an anonymous donor provided the $5,000 fee for local anglers, including Casa Hogar.) But what starts as a scam turns into something different during the group’s three days on the sparkling Sea of Cortez.

Quaid brings his most lovable crustiness to his portrayal of Wade in “Blue Miracle,” his world-weary sarcasm helping to keep the proceedings from getting too gooey. Working from a script he co-wrote with Chris Dowling, Quintana does a swift and efficient job of setting up the story and its stakes. True to its title, “Blue Miracle” is bathed in lovely shades of turquoise, aquamarine and cerulean. A protege of Terrence Malick, Quintana possesses a sharp eye for color and pictorial beauty, even amid the least glamorous precincts of a city known for its spectacular hotels and influx of moneyed celebrities.

Most astutely, Quintana has cast “Blue Miracle” with an appealing and gifted ensemble of players: Quaid and Gonzales develop a thoroughly credible, if arm’s-length, camaraderie, and Garcia, Anthony Gonzalez, Nathan Arenas, Isaac Arellanes and Steve Gutierrez are terrific as well. In this attractive, spirited adaptation of an incredible real-life fish tale, you’ll fall for them, hook, line and sinker.

TV-PG. Available on Netflix. Contains scenes of mild peril. 96 minutes.

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