Jesse Oils Up for Slick Willy
Although it was a little cheesy and very cliche "Free Willy" was an enjoyable movie, a nice family movie and ended on the positive of Willy going free. So really there should have been no need for a sequel except we got one because "Free Willy" was so popular. And that is the first mistake, yes I did say first mistake because to give us "Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home" they had to manufacture a storyline which would bring Jesse and Willy back together. It's a contrived storyline as is so much of "Free Willy 2" which not only does it see Jesse get a brother he never knew about but also takes an environmental stance with a storyline which has an oil tanker springing a leak. And sadly the charm which filled "Free Willy" has gone missing making this first sequel just a routine family adventure.
Two years on from having set Willy free things have calmed down for Jesse (Jason James Richter), he gets on with his foster parents and has started to take an interest in girls. But all that changes when he learns that not only has his mother died but he also has a little brother called Elvis (Francis Capra - A Bronx Tale) who is coming to stay with him. Jesse and Elvis do not get along especially when the whole family go on a camping trip to visit their old friend Randolph (August Schellenberg - Eight Below) who now works as a nature warden. Things pick up though as Randolph has a surprise for Jesse, in the nearby cove are a family of whales including Willy and on top of that Jesse also gets close to Randolph's God Daughter Nadine (Mary Kate Schellhardt - Apollo 13). But when an oil tanker runs a ground and starts polluting the water Jesse and Randolph along with everyone else must work quickly to try and save Willy and his family from the disaster.
So as already mentioned the first of the many problems which dog "Free Willy 2" is that they had to contrive some form of storyline so that they could reunite Jesse with the now free Willy. And it does stretch the boundaries of realism that Randolph, who now works as some sort of nature warden, is out whale spotting and recognizes Willy's sounds as he records whale calls. I suppose it could have been worse but it's certainly not very good as is the added storyline which sees Jesse getting a younger brother called Elvis after it comes to light that his mum has died. Okay so annoying little brother storylines aren't that bad but this one doesn't really go anywhere other than young Elvis telling one lie after another. Actually it does go somewhere as the two brothers expectedly bond after initially resenting each other but it is cliche and really not that good.
Part of the actual trouble with "Free Willy 2" is that it ends up taking an age to get going. Over half the movie focuses on the arrival of Elvis and the problems he causes and when it's not focussing on that we have Jesse finding romance with Randolph's God Daughter Nadine. Whilst the various scenes of Jesse impressing Nadine by being able to get so close to not only Willy but his sister Luna are entertaining they do end up dragging on for far too long. And so by the time we get the disaster of the oil tanker running a ground and polluting the water you've almost given up hope of any drama ever arriving.
So we have this oil disaster and typically Willy and a couple of other whales are in trouble and So Jesse, Randolph and anyone else we have been introduced to tries to help. Now I know "Free Willy 2" is a family adventure movie but the adventure this time around borders on the ridiculous before we get a major over the top ending as Willy ends up helping Jesse after Jesse had risked his life to help him. Oh I'm sure that young children will enjoy the excitement of this dramatic ending but for me a bit more realism wouldn't have gone a miss. And of course with an oil slick polluting the water we also get a few environmental issues thrown at us along with some corrupt businessmen. But it all seems so routine and that charm which made "Free Willy" enjoyable has gone missing and sadly so.
What this all boils down to is that "Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home" whilst not terrible is by no means as good as "Free Willy". The whole storyline from being contrived to taking too long to get going is a problem and so is the lack of realism when it gets to what is possible for a whale to do and trust me you have to take a lot for granted as Willy seems to now somehow obey voice commands whilst having been free for a while. It's still entertaining and I am sure younger viewers won't be put off by these issues but as is so often the case "Free Willy 2" is a sequel which was never needed.