Two years ago the boy Jesse helped the whale Willy to jump into freedom. Jesse enjoys the life with his adoptive parents, when his half-brother Elvis arrives because of the death of their mother. During a camping trip Jesse meets Willy again, as well as his Indian friend Randolph. A tender love develops between Jesse and Rudolph's goddaughter Nadine. Suddenly a crashed oil tanker endangers the whales, and several animal and human lives have to be saved as well when the oil catches fire. Written by
Tom Pfeifer <email@example.com>
The boy and the whale are back, but the warmth and cheer-inducing magic have been diminished
The boy is back. The whale is back. Most of the supporting cast from the 1993 cult classic "Free Willy" is back for the sequel, which hit theaters before an excited crowd of youngsters and their parents in 1995. But the cheer-inducing magic that I loved so much in the original has gone in "Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home" which isn't quite the adventure that the title seems to hint at. The title just seems more marketable and that's the way the movie feels, too. It's got the typical monotonous, rushed feeling that I tend to find most sequels have and while it's far from a disaster, it is a letdown from the warmness and nostalgia-stirring charm that I adored so much in the original film.
In the last movie, the beloved orca Willy (Keiko) leaped to safety from greedy marine park owners and escaped to the wild while the little boy he befriended, Jesse (Jason James Richter) finally came to peace with his foster parents. Two years later, Willy is still running free in the wild with his kin and the boy is reaching that age. You know. The age where girls send his heart pumping and the news that he has a half-brother strikes him like a ton of bricks. His estranged mother has passed away and so he and his foster parents have to take the unwanted, obnoxious brat from New York (Francis Capra) on their camping trip. Jesse's not so interested in camping, but more in meeting up with his old friend (August Schellenberg), his pretty goddaughter (Mart Kate Shellhardt), and of course, lovable Willy and his family. But things take a turn for the worse when an oil tanker runs aground in the cove where the whales are living and it's then that I realized "Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home" should have been titled "Free Willy 2: The Escape" because that's more of what it's about. Or why not just "Free Willy 2"? Oh, yeah. Marketable.
Everything that I loved so much in the first movie has been watered down here. First of all, the sheer awe and magic of the killer whales. Whereas I could really feel the majesty and the amazing presence of Willy and the other whales in the first film, here it seems more like placid outtakes from a rather cheap documentary, as if the cast cheering at the sight of Willy were doing so at pictures and not the real thing. Amazing as it sounds, but even though his namesake is the title of the movie, Willy has very little to do with the movie at all. He's really just there for more marketing value. It's not until the third act, the only energized moment in the picture, that he really comes into play and even though, just briefly.
Furthermore, the character dynamics are diminished. The sequel tries to explore the further complications of Jessie's life, but it only cracks open the doors of opportunity, never exploits them. The dynamic between him and his foster parents is just dimmed-down reruns of the same stuff we saw in the first movie. Even his relationship to the whale is dumbed away. But how about his new cast mates? Well, Mr. Capra does what he can, but he has one of the most aggravating characters in children movie history to play here. Even when his heart gets put into the right place, he's really hard to put up with and as a result, becomes hard to care about. And pretty and talented as she is, as Jesse's love interest, Miss Shellhardt does not have much to do and their romance is contrived, tiresome, tedious, and boring. As most teenage love stories are. Maybe that's just the key. Maybe the reason I've never bought teenage love stories in movies is because I don't believe in them. I don't buy the gimmicks they use here, especially considering the age. But that's a subject for another day. The point is: their scenes together go on forever but leave about as much impact as a speck of sand on the wing of a plane.
The first two acts of "Free Willy 2" are really slow-going. Not until the third act does the movie even pick up a little. The director, Dwight H. Little has talent. He knows how to use a camera well and he has skill with working around actors and his crew. The movie is well-shot...most of the time. The whale scenes aren't very well-staged. But what ultimately founders the movie is the severely diminished screenplay. Now I saw this movie more than ten years ago, as a child, having fallen in love with the original film. But whereas the first "Free Willy" stuck in my memory into my adulthood, this one did not. I only remembered flashes of it. Looking back on it again, I can clearly see why.
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