Making the Grades
Once a problem street kid, now Jesse seems to be a child that any parent would dream of raising. In the opening of Free Willy 2, Jesse is excitedly preparing for the family's summer vacation between glances at neighborhood girls. But then a worried social worker arrives and soon the Greenwoods explain to Jesse that his mother has died, and left yet another son that needs a home. Enter Elvis, Jesse's half-brother who is an eight-year-old with an attitude.
The next morning the family leaves for a camping vacation by the shore where whales are a plenty. Randolph, a smart man we met in the first movie that knows lots about kids and whales, takes Jesse and his God-daughter Nadine out on his boat to find Willy's family. Like a whale to water, Jesse is attracted to Nadine and is kept very busy between vying for her affection and protecting Willy from an oil spill. Meanwhile Elvis finds himself jockeying for position in this whale happy family.
Even with a contrived plot, I liked the same things in the second Free Willy as I did in the first. The family portrayed in this movie is a positive statement of the support that two loving parents can provide. Elvis conforms to the family's values a little too fast to be believable, but after all, we only have an hour and a half and there's a family of whales to save from a burning ocean.
Free Willy 2 comes with a short promotion at the start where you can call an 800 number and donate money towards Keiko's (the original whale that played Willy) new home. It was soon discovered after the first movie that Keiko's life was much like Willy's, as he lived in a small tank in Mexico. To overcome any criticism of exploiting a captive whale, the second movie uses only animatronic whales in the acting sequences. That's Hollywood ingenuity for you -- when the world runs out of whales we'll just build more.