Picks and Pans Review: Free Willy 2: the Adventure Home
Prepare for another hour and a half's worth of warm fuzzies. Willy the whale and his human pal, 14-year-old Jesse, are back together, and Moby Dick they aren't.
Liberated in the 1993 original, Willy has swum back to his family and is cavorting happily off Washington State when a disastrous oil spill threatens the shoreline's ecostructure.
When the film isn't bashing the fictional oil company, it is heavy-handedly drawing parallels between Willy's and Richter's searches for family. A half brother, Capra, has shown up to complicate life for the orphaned Richter, who lives with his foster parents, Michael Madsen and Jayne Atkinson, but mostly hangs out with August Schellenberg, who, as an Indian fisherman, is portrayed as beyond fault.
Richter is constantly chatting up Willy and patting his head. But since the close-up whales in this sequel are all mechanical, the most impressive scenes are shots of real whales leaping out of the water off Washington's San Juan Islands.
Peña, as a sympathetic marine biologist working for the oil company, gets involved in a plot to trap Willy's family, which leads to some slapsticky violence and chases. Willy, while rescuing Richter, displays his kind nature and an IQ that suggests he ought to be attending the whales' MIT, not swimming around aimlessly. (PG)