Starring Jason James Richter, Francis Capra
"Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home"

Opened: July 19, 1995 | Rated: PG

As painful as it is to use a movie review cliche, it must be said that "Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home" is a feel-good film.

Despite a catalog of continuity problems -- the editing is so sloppy at times you expect to see "meanwhile in another movie" flash across the screen -- the story, reuniting Jesse the heroic orphan boy and Willy the put-upon performing whale, has enough heart get a small smile out of even those who go in with their kids expecting to suffer through it.

The movie opens with a teenage Jesse (Jason James Richter) discovering that the mother who abandon him has died and left his 8-year-old half-brother, Elvis (Francis Capra), with nowhere to live.

Elvis joins Jesse and his foster family on vacation on the Oregon coast where, it turns out, Willy has migrated for the summer with his reunited family as well.

When Jesse is not playing with Willy in a cove where the whales go to relax or enlisting Willy's help in impressing a girl he's met, he is trading barbs with Elvis. The two brothers don't much care for each other at first, and smart aleck dialogue between them is one of the better elements of "Free Willy 2."

The movie's continuity problems come when the screenwriter seems to suddenly realize there isn't any conflict, and essential element to any feel-good movie, and decides arbitrarily to crash an oil tanker and trap Willy and his siblings in an oil slick.

The bad oil company men make a deal with some bad marine park men to save the whales from the slick and put them in captivity. Subsequently Jesse signals Willy to do the stunts you'll see in the commercials to help the whales escape.

The cute dialogue and the photography are the strongest parts of "Free Willy 2," including the expected whale watching footage and a scene, shot from below, of the whales escaping underwater while oil burns on the surface.

The film's weaknesses are not something that will bother the kiddie target-audience, but there are several places at which adults will roll their eyes, like the obligatory Michael Jackson theme song scene, which is thrown haphazardly into the middle of the movie, killing what little sense of flow the movie still had.

This review appeared in the Daily Republic, Fairfield, CA.

©1995 All Rights Reserved.

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