Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home

1995, PG, 95 min. Directed by Dwight Little. Starring Jason James Richter, August Schellenberg, Francis Capra, Michael Madsen, Elizabeth Peña, Jon Tenney, Jayne Atkinson, Mary Kate Schellhardt, M. Emmet Walsh.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., July 21, 1995

Just as every boy thrives best when he has a family to belong to, so too does every whale. That was the lesson of Free Willy I. But, whereas Willy I was built around one glorious, spectacular visual image -- that of the orca leaping bravely and gracefully over the water's above-sea-level retaining wall -- a shot that was the movie's raison d'être, a shot that served the story and summarized the narrative and thrust events into an epic realm- Free Willy 2 has no similar reason to exist. As a-boy-and-his-orca sequel, this one's pedestrian (and it's not just due to the lack of sailing through the air shots). Any adult watching Willy 2 should be able to predict events before the tide ever changes. Kids, on the other hand, should be satisfied with the movie's mix of family drama, playful whale bonding, and impending ecological crisis. Sibling conflict arises when lead Jesse (Richter), an adolescent who has grown to love his adopted parents (Atkinson and Madsen) since Willy I, has to adapt to the arrival of a half-brother Elvis (Capra), whom he never knew existed. This new family of four travels to the Pacific Northwest on a camping trip where they will see their friend Randolph (Schellenberg) -- a holdover from Willy I -- and, hopefully, Willy himself. And, of course Willy doesn't disappoint; he shows up with his whole pod: his mother, brother, and sister. After much whale cavorting, sibling tension, and puppy love sparked by the presence of Randolph's goddaughter, some of “the bad guys” cause an oil spill to happen. The whales musts be saved from the effects of the spill and then the kids must be saved from their selfless mission to save the whales. And, somewhere, in the midst of all this, the voice of Michael Jackson turns up to ask the preposterously self-reflexive musical question, “Have you seen my childhood?” Elizabeth Peña shows up in the unlikely role of a whale veterinarian; Please, someone, give this subtle talent material to which she's better suited than poking injections in whale tails and looking generally concerned. Free Willy 2, most probably, comes across like each individual viewer expects it to: So, anyone looking forward to it will not be disappointed. But if you really want to see a great movie about the interaction between humans, sea mammals, and myth, check out John Sayles' Secret of Roan Inish.

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More by Marjorie Baumgarten
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Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home, Dwight Little, Jason James Richter, August Schellenberg, Francis Capra, Michael Madsen, Elizabeth Peña, Jon Tenney, Jayne Atkinson, Mary Kate Schellhardt, M. Emmet Walsh

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