A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home is the 1995 second sequel to the Free Willy franchise. It is, at its core, a wholesome movie with plenty of lessons to teach about the love of the environment and marine life and the need to protect them from oil spills and other dangers. There is one awkward attempt at a sex discussion between a father and his tween son when he hears rumors that the tween has been kissing a girl he has just met. There also is some peril, as the kids on a sinking motorboat are surrounded by flaming, oil-covered water, with seemingly no chance of escape.
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What's the story?
In this sequel, a Free Willy cast reunion takes place just offshore, with the marine mammals once again in peril and an extended human family still learning to get along. Jesse (Jason James Richter) is living happily with his foster parents until his troubled biological mom dies and half-brother Elvis becomes part of his family. Then an oil spill threatens the now-free killer whale Willy and his family. As if that's not enough for Jesse to handle, an amusement park owner sets out to capture the whale.
Is it any good?
You'd think there wouldn't be much to add to the Free Willy saga after Willy was freed, and you'd be right. (Unless you count the real-life movement to release Keiko, the captive orca used in these movies.). FREE WILLY 2: THE ADVENTURE HOME treads some pretty familiar waters; it's not unlike a "Flipper" episode on steroids, especially in the action-filled climax, when whales and boys confront an ocean that's turned into sheets of flame.
But the first movie wasn't so much about stunts as the surprisingly touching relationship between Jesse and the troubled sea creature (Flipper never had such a bad attitude). There's an attempted substitute here in the emotional subplot of Jesse's jealousy, rivalry, and reconciliation with Elvis, his obnoxious sibling. Much of their dramatics takes place in the midst of an environmental inferno. The producers correctly intuited that this brotherly spat alone would leave much of the audience cold.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the children put themselves at risk. How much risk is too much? How should kids handle deciding whether to take risks?
How is this movie similar to and different from other movies in which wild animals and kids share a special bond?
How accurately do you think this movie shows the damage that an oil spill can cause to the environment?
- In theaters: June 5, 2001
- On DVD or streaming: June 5, 2001
- Cast: Francis Capra, Jason James Richter, Michael Madsen
- Director: Dwight H. Little
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Adventures, Brothers and Sisters, Great Boy Role Models, Ocean Creatures, Wild Animals
- Run time: 96 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: emotional intensity
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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