Psst: don't tell anybody, but this time the whale, and all of his whale pals and relatives, are either computer-generated images or old-fashioned miniatures (models). The humans in this film are reasonably real, however, including Jason James Richter, returning to his role as the former delinquent whose advocacy for an imprisoned orca turned his life around in Free Willy. You may recall that Willy jumped the aquarium fence, so to speak, at the end of that 1993 family movie, and regrouped in open seas with the pod from which he had been cruelly snatched. This 1995 sequel again finds Willy in trouble at the hands of the civilized world, this time due to an oil slick and explosion that may very well kill him or cause him to be locked away again. Meanwhile, Richter's growing character has other problems, including a troublesome half-brother and the rumblings of puppy love. One way in which this film is superior to its predecessor is a greater range of visual opportunities, i.e., shooting out on the ocean instead of in the whale hero's old tank. Of course, it helps that master cinematographer László Kovács (Five Easy Pieces) is behind the camera. Followed by another sequel. --Tom Keogh
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