Posted: 03/24/2010


Free Willy: Escape From Pirate’s Cove

by Laura Tucker

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This one takes on an unfortunate importance in light of recent events. Recently the news hit of a killer whale killing its trainer at Sea World. The tragedy here is that it wasn’t the first time for this particular animal. So to now watch Free Willy: Escape From Pirate’s Cove, a movie about an orca, which in not so nice terms, is really a killer whale, being trapped and the efforts to free it, it makes you think of all sorts of things that connect the stories other than just having them both be about the same animal. Additionally, it’s the Crocodile Hunter’s daughter, Bindi Irwin, that stars in the film as the young girl. Her dad was killed by an animal as well, a stingray.

Kirra Cooper (Irwin) travels to her grandfather’s amusement park to spend the summer. Like most movies of a child spending the summer or holiday with her faraway grandparent/parent/aunt or uncle, she doesn’t enjoy her time there at all, until she makes a discovery one morning in the lagoon. She finds a very young orca, aka killer whale, stranded. She doesn’t want her grandpa (Beau Bridges) to find out, or she’s sure he’ll turn the orca into an attraction at the amusement park. Being that he goes for a swim with his pet penguin every morning, however, it was too hard to keep it a secret for long.

After the discovery is made by Kirra’s grandpa, he does indeed make the orca part of his amusement park, and it brings in a lot of money. Kirra enjoys her time with the orca and begins training it as well, yet she knows he needs to be returned to the rest of his family. That’s where he belongs, not holed up in some shallow, small lagoon, and she works to change her grandpa’s mind to free the baby orca.

This is where life begins to imitate art somewhat. Isn’t that the whole idea of these Free Willy movies? That these animals are better off in freedom? I don’t have a problem with zoos and the like, if they provide the animals with enough of a natural habitat for them to live out their lives. But it would seem that if, despite the name, killer whales are normally gentle, and this one whale continued to act out, it wasn’t happy. It wanted to be freed like Willy.

Not that I’m trying to turn this into some political thing, as I’ve been to Sea World many times, and have of course been to my share of zoos and aquariums. I enjoy them. I especially appreciate Sea World, that it uses the profits to save more animals. However, if the animals aren’t happy, is there a point to saving them? The baby orca wasn’t meant to leave its pod. Orca young stay with their mothers throughout their lives. What type of behavior would come out of him being stranded away from his natural social structure? And to have the child of a man who died at the hands of an animal starring in the movie just kind of drives that point home.

Free Will: Escape From Pirate’s Cove was released straight to DVD on March 23.

Laura Tucker  is the webmaster of Reality Shack and its accompanying Reality Shack Blog, provides reviews at Viewpoints, and provides entertainment news pieces at Gather. She is also an Associate Instructor and 2nd dan black belt in tae kwon do with South Elgin Martial Arts. Laura can be reached at

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