Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home

on July 21, 1995 by Kim Williamson
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This effective sequel, which returns all the regulars and adds a stepbrother (Francis Capra), a romantic interest (Mary Kate Schellhardt) and the orca Willy's whole family, is buoyed by one big asset: the compelling presence of Jason James Richter as a more mature Jesse. The one-time rebellious homeless boy has now comfortably nestled into the loving arms of his adoptive parents (Michael Madsen and Jayne Atkinson), and his life in the picturesque Pacific Northwest becomes even sunnier when he's reunited with Willy. (Scenes of the two cavorting underwater, thanks to Richter's effective emoting and Laszlo Kovacs' nifty cinematography, make a splendid splash.) Trouble looms, though, when Jesse's newly arrived stepbrother turns out to be surly--but even more so when a single-hulled oil tanker runs aground, dumping its deadly cargo and threatening Willy and his pod.
   Aiming for the mainstream, the filmmakers behind this New Regency production paint the nuclear family and the environment in glowing colors and coat with sea sludge its oil company characters; a trio of scripters work overtime to make Jesse, however unlikely, the action hero against the malefactors. This white hat/black hat approach has barely a fathom of depth, but it's likely to swim with the family audience. "Free Willy 2's" only false sounding is a high-pitched and tinkly song by Michael Jackson (interestingly, credited in the film's print advertising not by name but to the "King of Pop") that midway surfaces out of nowhere and, thankfully, sinks again and never returns. Starring Jason James Richter, August Schellenberg and Francis Capra. Directed by Dwight Little. Written by Karen Janszen, Corey Blechman and John Mattson. Produced by Lauren Shuler Donner and Jennie Lew Tugend. A Warner Bros. release. Adventure. Rated PG for mild language and mild peril. Running time: 97 min.
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