Free Willy 3: The Rescue ends the unnecessary trilogy of the freed killer whale. It was dedicated to the real life rehabilitation of Keiko, but the famous orca died not long after his release. Although it was a noble cause, I don’t think anyone was asking for another Free Willy movie every 2 years. The quality began to dip with each passing entry. I can appreciate the animatronics, but Free Willy 3 feels cheap compared to the other movies. They couldn’t even afford a new Michael Jackson song.
Jason James Richter and August Schellenberg are the only returning cast members. The parents don’t appear and neither does Jesse’s half-brother from the second movie. Jesse is now working with Randolph on a research boat. Annie Corley is an unlikable researcher who fills the role of previous female companions. Since Jesse is now 16, child actor Vincent Berry represents the target demographic. Max is another bland kid who can’t compare to the original.
Willy finds a mate, but his pod is now threatened by whalers. Free Willy 3 makes the misguided decision to focus mostly on the bad guys. Rather than the usual greedy businessman, Patrick Kilpatrick is a single-minded whaler who hunts the orcas like Moby Dick. Since Max is the whaler’s son, most of the sequel is about him trying to change his father’s perspective. The life and death story wasn’t enough to keep the movie from tanking at the box-office. Free Willy 3 is all out of fresh ideas.
Preceded by: Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home