Willy the whale is back, this time threatened by illegal whalers making money off sushi.
The most alarming prospect to arise from this tired threequel is the blatant suggestion of a Free Willy 4. There are two worrying pointers: a new child actor is introduced in the starring role and Willy fathers, well, a new Willy. For a franchise that's dying on its fins third time round, this leaves scant hope for the future.
Free Willy 3 sadly sticks to the all-too-familiar "whale rescued by young boy" theme and feebly attempts to make a bit of a difference by introducing new faces. Richter, the original boy-star, remains as orphan Jesse (who has grown up to bear a frightening resemblance to a teenage David Hasselhoff) but he takes more of a backseat by joining his mentor Randolph (Schellenberg) as a marine researcher.
The bulk of the story lies with ten-year-old Max (Berry), the son of a swarthy whaler (Patrick Kilpatrick), who faces a personal crisis when he comes face-to-face with the friendly Orca after falling overboard. Sadly, the average viewer doesn't need a brain larger than a plankton to guess the outcome. The major problem with films starring animals, as illustrated here, is that they're very limiting.
Think Lassie and you think of a dog running miles to find help, think Jaws and you think of swimmer dinners, think Willy and you think of an Orca being rescued from danger.
Under tens and die hard whale freaks may get a kick out of it, but otherwise it is surely time to let Willy enjoy his freedom in peace.