Cover Art and Menus: 7/10
The cover for Free Willy: Escape from Pirate’s Cove is decent enough, with the adorable Bindi Irwin and our Orca friend Willy, with a nice Pirate cove background, that looks much better than the run down amusement park in the movie.
- Free Willy Pop-Up Fun Track – This is a fact track that is in the vein of Pop-Up videos, where facts and trivia about the movie are shown.
- On The Set Of Free Willy: Greetings From South Africa – This is a short behind the scenes type extra that clocks in at about 8 minutes. Bindi, who is extremely comfortable in front of the camera, talks about the filming and the whole experience.
- Bindi Irwin and Willy Invite All To “Meet My Wild Costars” – Just like her father used to do, Bindi shows us around the animals. She does a great job of introducing the creatures that were used in the movie, and she is completely fearless around all of them. She truly has inherited her dad’s love of animals, and it shows.
- Bindi’s First Movie Video Diary – We also get more of Bindi in front of the camera as this 4 minutes extra shows us how Bindi spent her days as the filming was going on.
- Deleted Scenes – There are two deleted scenes here that are not really missed.
- Outtakes – We also get some outtakes that involve Bindi trying to feed the Orca.
The Movie: 6/10
Many of us older folks have seen at least the original Free Willy, from back in the day. Free Willy : Escape from Pirate’s Cove is a remake of the original, and the same tried and true formula exists in this one, as well as the three previous incantations of the franchise.
In this one, we get to meet Kirra (Bindi Irwin) who is sent to spend time with her grandfather Gus (Beau Bridges) when Kirra’s dad is injured and must stay in the hospital in Australia. Gus, who lives in South Africa, is a bit of a strange fellow, who has not seen Kirra in ages. Kirra arrives to find that her grandfather runs Pirate’s Cove, which is a run down sea amusement park, complete with rides and a lagoon with pirate memorabilia everywhere. As Kirra is starting to warm to the quirky old man and the staff that runs Pirate’s Cove, a freak storm strands a young Orca whale in the lagoon, and Kirra takes is upon herself to help the animal.
Her grandfather however, sees the Orca as a surefire way to attract people to the park, and he uses the Orca to revive his business. Things get hairy when Gus’ rich enemy, whose own larger, more attractive park learns of the Orca’s existence and tries to steal and or buy the mammal from Gus.
Kirra attempts to reason with her grandfather, who agrees to let her name the whale, which of course she names Willy. The movie is a rehash of the other Free Willy movies, and while this one plods along in parts, overall it was enjoyable. My son liked the movie, and the ending was well done, with some real emotion that was a replica of the first movie. I missed Free willy 2 and 3, and this one was decent enough to make it through, even though it was definitely made with young kids in mind. Overall, there are better movies for kids to watch, but Free Willy : Escape form Pirate’s Cove was fairly good.
Audio & Video: 6/10
While this is on Blu-ray, and the presentation is not bad, the movie itself is a straight to video release, and overall it is just decent. The video in parts is smart and crisp, and in other parts of the movie, it is downright fuzzy. The colors also range from good to bad, but overall the 1.85:1 presentation seems to work.
The 5.1 Surround Sound audio is presented in DTS-HD, and is good, but with only little use of the rear speakers. There are strong areas, like during a storm, where the bass and audio are impressive, but overall the audio is just good, and not great.
While I am fairly certain that kids will enjoy this movie, the fourth in the Free Willy line, it is just a redo of the original. It is hard to figure out why they feel the need to remake this Franchise, when most of the original viewers of Free Willy are much older. Bindi Irwin does a decent job in her first movie, but it is obvious that she is more comfortable in front of the camera where she can simply talk about the animals instead of trying to act with them. She is cute, and overall she does a fairly good job of starring with Beau Bridges, who adds a real acting anchor to this movie, which could have really floundered without his presence. Free Willy : Escape from Pirate cove is only good for a watch, and probably only good for kids at this point.
Overall Score 6/10