The heartwarming tale of a boy and his...whale.Free Willy presents a twist on the "boy and his dog" genre, by making the dog a killer whale. The same basic plot will follow: loner boy (Jason James Richter, in this case) in foster home who hates his relative captivity befriends lonely whale at water park who hates his captivity. The two become friends (as friendly as boy and whale can become, I guess). But there's a problem.
Michael Ironside, mean, evil man that he is, decides to exploit the relationship between whale and boy, who has gone on to become a trainer for the whale along with the other professional trainers (including Lori Petty). Nevermind the fact that he's just 12. Then Ironside (the actor, not that old Raymond Burr TV series) decides that he needs to have the whale killed so he can collect the insurance money. This, of course, sets off a devious plan to release the whale into the wild.
It's fluff, and predictable fluff at that, but it basically works. The mix of live and animatronic whales is pretty seamless (unlike the later sequels), so it looks like we're seeing the real deal all the time (except for a poorly done CGI climax in which the whale jumps over the boy). The affection between the boy and the whale seems genuine, and the relatationship between the boy and the foster parents seems fairly realistic as well.
Parents could do worse for their kids on a Saturday night.Harmless stuff for the kiddies, although older kids may be a little restless when they hear that Michael Jackson song.