The 1995 sequel to "Free Willy" is more of the same, with Jesse (Jason James Richter) now getting along with his parents, Glen and Annie Greenwood (Michael Madsen and Jayne Atkinson). In the beginning, he finds out that the mother who abandoned him when he was younger has now passed, leaving behind a younger brother named Elvis (Francis Capra) that Jesse never knew he had.
The film remains similar to the original in the way that Elvis is similarly troubled in the way that Jesse was in the original film, before the majesty of nature (more specifically, his friendship with the whale of the title) taught him to grow up. This time around, Jesse falls for Nadine (Mary Kate Schellhart), who is the goddaughter or Randolph (August Schellenberg, who was also in the first movie).
It's not too long before Jesse meets up with Willy once again, who has now joined his family in the open waters. Once again, Willy gets in trouble when some villians cause an oil spill, with the two teens rushing in to do whatever they can to save Willy and his family.
Obviously, the film is an attempt to capitalize on the success of the original, but there's really nothing new that this film has to say that wasn't already said in the first film. The addition of the little brother is as also as annoying to the audience as it is to the Jesse character. There are still positives here, though: the performances are very enjoyable, while the widescreen photography of the sequel (the film's cinematography is by ace cinematographer László Kovács) is as enjoyable as the photography of the original. The animatronic whales are also, once again, pretty remarkable. The way that the effects of the spilled oil harms the whales is terribly saddening and presented in an all-too-real way.
The sequel isn't as good as the original, but it's harmless fare that kids should enjoy (although parents may be bored by the constant predictability). Thankfully, the sequel's cut down from the length of the original and only clocks in at about 95 minutes. Decent children's fare.
VIDEO: Like the first film, "Free Willy 2" is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and, like the first picture, this is an awfully nice transfer that ony suffers from a few minor faults here and there. Sharpness and detail are excellent, as the picture offers a rich, film-like appearance, often showing fine detail.
Still, as I noted, flaws in the presentation do exist. Some minor edge enhancement does appear at times, but it's only visible briefly and will likely not cause a great deal of concern to most viewers. The print used is excellent, as only a few slight instances of specks and marks were noticed. No pixelation or any other faults were seen.
Colors are, like the first picture, very well-rendered, appearing well-saturated and never smeared. Black level remains very solid throughout the film, while flesh tones remained accurate. Not flawless, but like the first picture's transfer, this is very nice work, nonetheless.
SOUND: "Free Willy 2" is presented by Warner Brothers in Dolby Digital 5.1. The soundtrack of the second film almost seemed more subdued than that of the first, with a bit less in the way of noticable surround use. This time around, the rear speakers are only used for slight reinforcement of the music and some very minor ambience. Audio quality is still fine, as the music sounded crisp and clear, as did dialogue.
EXTRAS: Short featurette, trailers for all three "Free Willy" movies, interactive whale guide, Michael Jackson music video and trailers for "Wizard of Oz" and "Willy Wonka".
Final Thoughts: "Free Willy 2" doesn't really improve any on the first film or offer anything particularly new, but there are some strong moments and the film is paced a bit better than the first. The DVD doesn't offer much in the way of supplements, but does boast fine audio/video quality. A rental recommendation, or maybe a purchase for fans.