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Jesse, a twelve-year-old boy, does not know his father, and his mother left him with the government six years ago. Bounced from one foster home to the next, he now relies on the streets for his existence, until one night he seeks refuge in an unusual place, and is caught. Here he meets Willy, a captured killer whale, and they begin their story together.
This film shows the need for family, and manages to take a street kid and make him much more understanding and responsible without bathing the audience in unnecessary sentimentalism. It also gives us a realistic view of what these kids go through without mountains of profanity and violence.
It also provides a good view of the motives of those that use captured animals for monetary gain. The comparison between the captured whale, and the captured boy, provides an interesting situation, and allows Jesse's character to grow through observing Willy, and coming to his own realistic conclusions.
One of the few unfortunate elements of the film, without giving away the whole plot, is near the end Jesse "borrows" his foster father's truck without asking. His character should have grown to the point where that wasn't necessary. Jesse was a street kid, and used to steal to live, but by this point in the film, his need for his father's truck could have been used as a bonding point between them.
Michael Jackson's video of Will You Be There is also on the head of the rental tape. You may want to fast forward through it, as there will be very few surprises left in the movie if you watch it first.
No one can change a boy in two hours, but this movie gives a glimpse of what a young person can go through in putting the pieces together. It is much more a story of a boy than a whale.
Free Willy is rated PG: for some mild language
Cast: Jason James Richter, Lori Petty