Movie Review

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Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home

reviewed by Dr. Barbara Mack Ph.D.

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Self-Help Parent Meter (Scale based on PG-13 films)
0 = Little or none      5 = Great amount or highly

Sex: (0)
Profanity: (0)
Violence: (0)
Fright: (2)

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"Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home" (PG), the sequel to the popular 1993 film, is an enthralling tale for children and adolescents. It contains action, family issues and a good bit of conservationism.

Jesse (Jason James Richter) has become a well-adjusted teenager since his adoption by his foster parents, Glen and Annie Greenwood (Michael Madsen and Jayne Atkinson). It has been two years since Jesse last saw Willy, the Orca whale that he helped train and free. Now, he and his parents are planning a camping/whale watching trip. Thoughts of an idyllic vacation are dashed when a social worker brings Jesse's half-brother, Elvis (Francis Capra) to stay with his family. The mother who abandoned Jesse died, and Jesse is Elvis's only living relative. To Jesse's chagrin, Elvis joins the family on their camping trip.

In the beautiful waters of Northern Washington State, Jesse finds Willy cavorting in the ocean with his whale family. Jesse and his new friend Nadine (Mary Kate Schellhardt) enjoy watching the whales gracefully dive and play. They even get a chance to swim with Willy. Those joyful times don't last. A tanker accident results in an oil spill that threatens the lives of Willy, his brother and his sister. Jesse, with the help of his family and friends, tries to rescue the whales as the film comes to an exciting climax. This is another of the many children's films this year in which the mother has died.

In the original "Free Willy," Jesse had to deal with being abandoned by his mother. Now he must deal with her death. At first he reacts with anger, then he begins to explore his feelings with Willy. He tells him, "You must be so happy to be with your Mom. My Mom died. I miss her so much. I feel like I'm all alone. I don't know what to do." Elvis reacts to his mother's death with anger, disrespect of others and lies. In describing his mother to Jesse, he says, "She had problems. She lied a lot. She said she loved me. She said she would never leave."

The challenge of saving the whales unites the boys in a common cause, and together they learn to accept their mother's death. Sibling rivalry is a problem for both boys. Jesse feels threatened when his new half-brother is brought home, for he fears that he might have to compete for love with a new sibling. On the other hand, Elvis is jealous of Jesse's relationship with the Greenwoods. Eventually the boys are able to deal with their rivalry. "Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home" shows children that those difficult feelings can be conquered.

The protection of whales and the protection of the environment are major themes in this film. The enemy are selfish, self-serving people who care more for money than for the conservation of the earth. At the end of the film, a phone number is given for those who want to help the whales. This movie gives children a sense that they can make a difference in the world. It is a well needed, positive message that gives children hope for their future.

"Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home" contains no sex, profanity or graphic violence. There are some tense moments when the children are in a sinking boat, surrounded by fire. At one point, Jesse falls from a helicopter. These scenes, along with the whales in jeopardy scene, may frighten some young children. Generally though, this is a wonderful movie for children and adolescents.

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