Are there no original ideas in Hollywood anymore? Without wanting to sound like an old man, it bugs me that the studios keeping churning out mindless drivel. Next to seemingly fall into this category is (brace yourself) “Free Willy: Escape from Pirate’s Cove” (aka: “Free Willy 4”).
This time, the story has been moved to South Africa with the action taking place at the Pirate’s Cove amusement park, run by Gus Grisby (Beau Bridges). Gus’ granddaughter Kirra (newcomer Bindi Irwin) arrives to stay with him for the summer both a little hesitant around each other. Things however start to pick up (but, sadly, not for the audience) when after a freak storm an Orca whale named Willy is left stranded in the theme park’s lagoon. Seriously, why are all killer whales called Willy? How do they talk to each other?
There is no Jesse this time from the previous films — apparently even Jason James Richter, with his less than stellar acting career, deemed this film too dire to return for. So it’s left to Beau Bridges and Bindi Irwin to shoulder the film. Oh, Beau, what has become of my favourite Fabulous Baker Street Boy? Embarrassingly reduced to playing second flipper to a whale. One bright light in the film does seem to come from 11-year old Bindi Irwin, daughter of the late Steve Irwin. She doesn’t seem as annoying as most 11-year old kids in movies tend to be. Following in her father’s footsteps, it makes sense that her first foray into the movie world would be a family film with a conservation vibe to it. Such a shame it had to be this one.
The trailer contains the usual elements of these middle-of-the-road family films: estranged family brought back together, child star and new friend bond over a life-changing quest, drab Celine Dion-type music, last gasp race against time and eventual hugs all round. The problem is that as you watch the trailer you realise something smells fishy … and it isn’t the whale.
“Free Willy: Escape from Pirate’s Cove” is due for release on DVD and Blu-Ray March 23.
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