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Free Willy
Free Willy
Actors: Jason James Richter, Lori Petty, Michael Madsen, Keiko, Jayne Atkinson
Director: Simon Wincer
Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama, Kids & Family
PG     1997     1hr 52min

A young foster child with a rebellious attitude meets his whale counterpart at an aquatic park. — Item Type: DVD Movie — Item Rating: PG — Street Date: 06/05/01 — Wide Screen: yes — Director Cut: no — Special Edition: no — Langua...  more »

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Movie Details

Actors: Jason James Richter, Lori Petty, Michael Madsen, Keiko, Jayne Atkinson
Director: Simon Wincer
Creators: Arnon Milchan, Douglas C. Merrifield, Jennie Lew Tugend, Jim Van Wyck, Lauren Shuler Donner, Corey Blechman, Keith Walker
Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama, Kids & Family
Sub-Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama, Family Films
Studio: Warner Home Video
Format: DVD - Color,Full Screen,Widescreen,Anamorphic - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 11/19/1997
Original Release Date: 07/16/1993
Theatrical Release Date: 07/16/1993
Release Year: 1997
Run Time: 1hr 52min
Screens: Color,Full Screen,Widescreen,Anamorphic
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 1
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Languages: English, French, Spanish
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
See Also:

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Member Movie Reviews

Nancy W. from CHARLOTTE, NC
Reviewed on 12/30/2010...
Wonderful movie for the entire family. It tugs at your heart in many ways and the antics with the killer whale are amazing. Great movie.
1 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.

Movie Reviews

Rebecca Johnson | Washington State | 03/08/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The reason this film is so moving is because it is about freedom. We all value freedom and the human spirit longs to be free. Animals are born to run free, on the earth or in the sea. The thought of trapping a whale in a tank just large enough for dolphins seems rather cruel. So, we cheer on, as a 12-year-old spunky street kid makes freeing this beautiful Orca whale possible.

Jesse is the star of this movie and is at first a troubled kid who keeps thinking his mother will come back to take him home. Willy is the whale who was also taken from his family, so the two find common ground. When Willy saves Jesse's life, they form a bond of friendship and Jesse is the only one who can train the whale. The owner of the Pacific Northwest Aquatic Park plots to get insurance money by destroying the tank and when Jesse hears of the plans he has to race against time to save his friend.

The scenes of the Pacific Northwest are spectacular and the whales playfully dancing in the water is a pure display of joy. These are truly on of God's most magnificent creations. Keiko, a 7,000-pound Orca is the whale star, but they also have back-up from a full-sized "animatronic" whale. I could not tell the difference between the whales, it was that good.

One of the best parts of the film is when Jesse spends his pocket money to buy the whale his favorite treat, salmon. I just thought that showed Jesse's true character. While he acts tough on the outside, he seems to be fascinated with nature and animals and that brings out his more loving side.

Throughout the movie, the theme of family is very important and I think that might be why this film is such a favorite. There is a music video at the beginning of this video and there is also information for children about helping save whales from becoming extinct. Overall, I felt this was a great movie for children and adults and it teaches such great lessons: that we all need a family and that we should respect animals. I was captivated from beginning to end. A wonderful movie for all ages.

~The Rebecca Review"
Classic Family Entertainment (Good For The Grownups, Too)
E. Knowles | The Amazon | 03/06/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Young Jesse -- abandoned by his mother at an early age -- is a troubled kid. His antics keep his social worker and foster family worried and busy. He runs away, begs for spare change, steals food and spray paints graffiti on walls. His foster parents really love and care for him but Jesse resists them, believing that his mother will someday return.Jesse's life takes a turn for the better when he encounters Willy, a giant orca, at a marine park nearby. Jesse's fascination with the whale leads to an emotional bond based, at least in part, on their similar circumstances. Willy misses his mother and, like Jesse, tends to 'act out' once in a while.I saw "Free Willy" in 1993 when it was released in theatres. I remembered agreeing with the critics who praised it as great family entertainment and I'm happy to say that the film remains very effective today.My niece (age 8) was thoroughly entertained by this movie but the younger children in the group were alienated by the somewhat advanced, dramatic themes of abandonment, responsibility and love. For what it's worth, I enjoyed the film immensely.Over a decade since its release, "Free Willy" holds up quite well. I got "misty" and "choked up" throughout the desperate climactic rescue sequence that gives the movie its name. The opening sequence, during which Willy is captured, is also quite touching.This is efficient storytelling offering a steady, sustained buildup to a thoroughly satisfying climax."Free Willy" also offers believable performances by all members of its small ensemble cast, including Michael Madsen, Michael Ironside, Lori Petty, Jason James Richter (as Jesse) and Keiko (as Willy)."
Perfect family entertainment!
D. Litton | Wilmington, NC | 05/08/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Whales are a source of constant wonderment and awe for millions of people all over the world, which is what makes "Free Willy" such an awesome flick. The movie chronicles the friendship and tribulation of a boy and a 7,000-pound orca whale, instantly winning over our hearts with its family oriented entertainment. The characters are a division of the likeable and the despised, with a story that pits man against nature and proves to be a race for survival. Jesse is a troubled preteen boy who, after caught by the police for spray-painting graffiti at a waterpark, is taken to live with Glen and Annie Greenwood, who welcome him despite his detached attitude. Forced to clean up the mess he's made, he soon finds himself fascinated by the mere presence of the park's giant orca, Willy, and the two quickly become friends. Jesse is the only one Willy will respond to, which makes the whale's greedy owner ecstatic, as well as surprising the park's owner, Randolph, and the trainer, Ray. The owner soon makes plans to put Willy in the spotlight, which draws a large and noisy crowd, giving Willy a severe case of stage fright and causing the show to fail. Since Willy brings in no revenue, the owner capitalizes on the fact that Willy is worth $1 million in insurance money, and plots to have him killed. At this point, the movie becomes a race against time as Jesse, Randolph, Ray, Glen and Annie struggle to take Willy back to his natural habitat. First and foremost, what makes this movie a big success is the animal character, Willy, which, with the exception of scenes in which Jesse comes into actual contact with him, is a real whale named Keiko. The whale performs some amazing stunts that are not new to anyone who's paid a visit to Sea World, but certainly have not lost their luster. Animals can be trained to do lots of things, and the movie proves that no matter how many times you watch some of these stunts, they still prove to be awe-inspiring even later. I found that it was not so much the stunts the mammal performed that intrigued me as much as it was the increasingly connective bond between Willy and Jesse. Perhaps it is the circumstances which bring them together that is what cements their friendship: in the beginning, Willy is taken from a family of whales out in the ocean, who pay visits to him while he is captive. Jesse is also an orphan, abandoned by his mother as a young boy. Their backgrounds give good reason for their understanding of one another, which is not merely a fable of fiction. The movie's appeal is furthered through its deeper meanings and themes, which are simple enough for children to understand. Jesse and Willy's friendship tells a powerful message about the bonds and the circumstances that shape them, and the resolve of the characters to save him in the end proves that human strength overcomes any situation, perilous or no. This simplicity will appeal to the younger and older sets without compromising its standards as a family film. The cast interacts well with one another, and heading up the ensemble is Jason James Richter as Jesse, who plays the troubled teen syndrome to perfection. His change from mischievous to good-natured is convincing because of his friendship with the whale as well as the acting. August Schellenberg plays Randolph, the park owner with an Indian background. Glen is played by Michael Madsen, who plays him as stern and unrelenting in trying times. This provides a bit of angst between he and Jesse, which is interesting to watch. Ray is played by Lori Petty, and Annie is played by Jayne Atkinson, who is gentle and kind in the role. "Free Willy" is solid family entertainment that delivers a power-punch story for children and adult enjoyment. The whale alone is enough to watch the film for, while the story never fails in delivering one good performance and twist after another. Sit down with everyone and enjoy the ride; it's just a good movie!"