Free Willy Movie Review
Back in 1993, Free Willy became an inexplicable sensation despite its relatively unlikeable lead character Jesse (Jason James Richter) and the fact that the cuddly creature he frees is not cuddly in the slightest.
Willy is a whale (played by Keiko, who has since been freed and now lives off the coast of Scandinavia), and he's almost as bratty as Jesse. So naturally these two come together to save each other -- Jesse saves Willy from being turned into blubber at the hands of his unhappy owners, and Willy saves Jesse from being a punk for the rest of his life by giving him something to do with his time (namely, feeding Willy fish and teaching him to jump and wave and stuff). Pretty cute. If your kids like whales, they're gonna love this movie.
If not, they'll probably find the film is saccharine as most adults. The characters are unilaterally hard to like (Michael Madsen as a "good guy" foster father? Lori Petty as a whale trainer? Who cast ths movie!?). The plot is embarassingly straightforward and obvious. The sets are low-budget and reflect the obvious fact that it costs a whole lot of money to rent a whale, leaving little cash for anything else.
And despite all odds, this inexplicably works. Free Willy went on to become one of the best-selling videos of all time (no doubt the 10th anniversary DVD will join it) and spawned two sequels along the same boy-saves-whale-saves-boy lines. And the phrase "Free Willy" has entered the pop culture lexicon in numerous ways the producers probably never expected.