Thursday, November 1, 2012

Free Willy

In the film, Free Willy, produced in 1993, the importance of family, animal rights, and the balance between right and wrong are explored through twelve-year-old Jesse. Jesse first comes on screen as a delinquent young boy who has lived a troubled life; bouncing from various foster homes while yearning for his mother's return. In Jesse's attempt to act out, he and a group of boys graffiti the marine amusement park that houses a killer whale named Willy. Dwight, the security officer, catches Jesse in the act. Subsequently, Jesse is placed in a new foster home, but this time the young couple genuinely cares for this boy. Dwight decides Jesse can work off his punishment by cleaning the aquarium room. Through this experience, Jesse befriends Willy the volatile killer whale. The movie is shown through the eyes of Jesse. I believe this is effective for the message of treating animals fairly. Michael Smith, writer for the Herald Journal, argues that movies often "feature dramatic narration portraying the animals as reasoning and emotional"(12). Producer, Lauren Shuler-Donner, avoids this by using the boy to express the emotions of both he and Willy.

The cliche of "there's no place like home," is apparent in "Free Willy." This movie explores the importance of family. Willy is tempered because mercenary fisherman remove him from his natural habitat and family. Jesse's mother left him and subsequently, he acts out. Jesse and Willy bond because they feel alone. The final scene shows willy reunited with his mother in the ocean. Jesse finally accepts his new family and runs up to hug them. The negative feelings felt by the audience from Jesse having to let his best friend, Willy, go is overshadowed by the positive message that neither are alone. They have found their way home.

Animal cruelty is a problematic message the film is trying to bring light to. The capture of Willy and his treatment by the amusement park owner evokes empathy and compassion for this wild animal. To him this killer whale is only dollar signs. Jesse and Willy's two trainers are the only people who care about Willy. The scene where Jesse is playing his harmonica to Willy by the tank, slips, falls in the water and Willy saves him by swimming him over to the side puts the audience on Willy's side (Free Willy, 1993). Pathos is an integral part of getting the audience to take the movies message to heart. It creates the emotion of passion for this issue, therefore, the viewers are more likely to help put a stop to animal cruelty. In Everything's an Argument, Lunsford and Ruszkiewicz explain that, "some issues provoke strong feelings and, as a result, are often argued on emotional terms" (48, 2). Jesse fights for Willy to be free from harm and let back into the ocean. The park owner's greed is causing him to take illegal actions by poisoning the tank to collect insurance money. However, good trumps evil in the end.

Overall, the movie sends a good message of trust and family while opening our eyes to the unfair capture and treatment of animals in certain situations. One flaw in this movie is that some people may take away the idea that all broken families or foster children participate in mischievous acts of some kind. This is giving families and children in similar situations a negative stereotyped image. All ages can enjoy this movie even though some of these more subjective ideas may not be caught. Who doesn't love watching whales do tricks?

Because of the universal appeal, and genuine messages this movie conveys, I rate it....

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