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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Free Willy 3
Free Willy 3
Warner Bros. // PG // January 28, 2003
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted January 24, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Taking things one step too far, the "Free Willy" trilogy ends with this unnecessary third picture. While it's harmless children's fare like the second picture, it's even less substancial. The picture once again stars Jason James Richter as Jesse, who is now a research assistant to Randolph (August Schellenberg, from the other two films) and oceanographer Drew (Annie Corley).

The film offers a new younger character, Max (Vincent Berry), whose father is illegally hunting whales. While the boy is pleased that his father cares about him and tells him that he's going to teach him everything he knows, the young child is horrified when he sees his father and the other crew members hunting whales in the waters of the Pacific Northwest.

Of course, he eventually meets Jesse and the older boy tells the younger one how wrong what his father is doing is. It's only a matter of time before the son confronts his father and tries to convince him how he should seek another line of work. Again, while certainly not the most terrible family fare I've seen, the picture doesn't stand up to the first two. Some of the film may seem fairly dark, as the violence portrayed in the whale hunter scenes may scare some younger viewers. The film also continues to use the same formula as the first two pictures, with less effective results. Even the performances seem a bit less invested here. Thankfully, this one only clocks in at a minor 86 minutes.


The DVD

VIDEO: Although the new re-releases of the first two "Free Willy" pictures have been re-released with their beautiful widescreen photography intact, the third picture is unfortunately pan & scan only on this DVD release. Unlike the impressive transfers of the first two movies, the picture quality here is only fair, as aside from the problem of the picture being cropped, it looks slightly dimmer and less vibrant than the anamorphic widescreen presentations of the earlier two films. Sharpness and detail are not as exceptional, either: while the picture boasts acceptable definition, it doesn't show the kind of fine definiton the previous films did.

Other faults present themselves: some minimal edge enhancement is present, as are a few traces of pixelation and some light grain. The print used is in respectable shape, with only a handful of specks and marks. Colors are fairly well-presented; while they aren't smeared, they look a little subdued.

SOUND: The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is fairly low-key and completely dialogue-driven. Audio quality is fine, as the score sounded pleasant and crisp, while dialogue remained clear and natural.

EXTRAS: Interactive whale guide and trailers for all three "Free Willy" films, as well as trailers for "Willy Wonka" and "Wizard of Oz".

Final Thoughts: My viewing of the entire "Free Willy" trilogy was more enjoyable than I'd expected, but the third picture certainly seemed like the least involving of the three. The third film also gets the most lackluster treatment, with a pan & scan transfer and hardly any supplements. Those seeking a family film should consider the other two instead.

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