Free Willy 3: The Rescue

(Sam Pillsbury, USA, 1997)


Is it possible these days to make a movie about children and creatures of the land, sea or air without including an evil hunter who kills nature’s bounty purely for the sake of profit?

Then again, if it was not for these snarling, unshaven, heavy-set types, our young heroes and their extended human-plus-animal families would simply frolic around in paradise forever – and the plot would never get going.

The hero of the original Free Willy (1993), Jesse (Jason James Richter), has grown a little too old to be the sole star of the latest adventure in the series, so now he shares the spotlight with Max (Vincent Berry).

While Jesse insinuates himself into working with a jovial, decent bunch of scientists out to protect the declining whale population, Max tags along with his Dad, John (Patrick Kilpatrick), on a rather more sinister whaling expedition.

Actually, John is not your regulation villain. In a memorable soliloquy, he tells his son that, once upon a time, whaling served a noble purpose – it helped light the world’s gas lamps. But now, he sadly explains, it only helps feed the Japanese.

There is little else of note in Free Willy 3. New Zealand-born director Sam Pillsbury has tried his hand at everything from art films to erotic thrillers, but he can do nothing to enliven the strictly formulaic moves of this tired sequel.

The seascape is sweeping, the whales are impressive and little Max is as cute as a button – but the charm of this series has definitely been exhausted.

© Adrian Martin September 1997

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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