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Free Willy: Escape From Pirate's Cove (2010) Print E-mail
Wednesday, 31 March 2010
ImageI've lost count now how many films are in the Free Willy franchise.  But like most, "Free Willy: Escape From Pirate's Cove" is a direct to video release.  This is one of those films that seems to be destined for tragedy.  First, the film is being release just a few short weeks after the news that a killer whale killed its trainer.  Second, Bindi Irwin, the breakout star of the film, is the daughter of the late, great Steve Irwin, who died in a tragic stingray accident.

This Free Willy film is a little better than most direct-to-video sequels, but it doesn't shine.  Adults will find it typical and dull.  Children will likely find the film entertaining.  However, it does have many lulls that might cause children to lose interest, unlike Disney/Pixar films.

The film doesn't offer much in the way of educational information.  "Free Willy: Escape From Pirate's Cove" is simply a film that follows all the plot clichés.  Bindi Irwin is a young girl from Australia who is sent to live with her grandfather after her dad has an accident and has to be hospitalized.  Naturally, Kirra (Irwin) throws a fit about going to South Africa.  Her grandfather, Gus (Beau Bridges) is the owner of a broken down amusement park that looks like it should be condemned and not having tons of customers each day.

When a storm hits the cove, a young orca is trapped in the amusement park's cove.  Kirra adopts the orca as her own, becoming very protective of it.  Meanwhile, Gus looks to make money off the mammal.  When his rival offers serious cash to buy the orca from him, Gus is intrigued.  Kirra learns that the orca, Willy, was separated from his pod and has not learn how to use his echo-location.  And without that function a whale is as good as dead in the ocean.  Kirra undertakes the challenge of teaching Willy how to use his senses and hopefully reunite him with his pod.
The story is typical, but Irwin shines on screen, with the exception of a few instances that are extremely annoying.  Bridges shoved into the background and doesn't offer much uniqueness to the film.

With an average direct-to-video film comes an average video transfer.  Much of it has to do with the original source material and the low budget for the film.  While colors are fairly bols, the image seems to be muddy, the way that audio is muddy.  The image clarity is lacking for the most part.  Details can be sharp, but usually is accompanied by edge enhancement.  Black levels are more gray and the contrast is inconsistent.  Noise in the image is persistent and uneven.  Instances of noise reduction seem to have been applied to the image.  As a casual film the image will not play much importance, but the image quality of the Blu-ray relates closely with its standard DVD counterpart.

The audio quality is on the same level as that of the video.  In fact, I would use the same word to describe the audio, muddy.  Dialogue gets lost from time to time.  Dialogue can go from muddy to overly bright in the same line.  The LFE channel is better than I would have expected.  The storm and the attack scenes have some nice umph.  The balance of the audio stems is off, even for a direct-to-video film.  The surround channels are fairly noticeable throughout, however directionality remains absent.  There is certainly nothing remarkable about this track and will probably suffice for the casual listener.

The Blu-ray contains more special features than I would have thought for the budget.  Exclusive to the Blu-ray is a pop-up trivia track that may be interesting for children.  "On the Set of Free Will: Greetings From South Africa" is a location spot.  "Bindi Irwin and Willy Invite All to 'Meet My Wild Costars'" is a typical featurette about the animals in the film.  "Bindi's First Movie Video Dairy" is footage by the young star.  The Blu-ray also comes with some deleted scenes and outtakes.  The package also comes with a second disc which functions as both a DVD Copy and a Digital Copy.

"Free Willy: Escape From Pirate's Cove" is nothing spectacular, but is a cute movie – despite the fact that some of the information on orca whales is wrong in the film.  The video and audio quality are lacking in several areas and remains on the same levels as the standard DVD.  This one might be worth a rent for the kids.

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