Free Willy: Escape From Pirate's Cove (Blu-ray) Official AVSForum Review - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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Old 03-28-2010, 08:30 PM - Thread Starter
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The Review at a Glance: ( max score: 5 )

Film: attachment.php?attachmentid=109942&d=1210373697

Extras: attachment.php?attachmentid=109943&d=1210373697

Audio/Video total rating:

( Max score: 100 )


Studio and Year: 2009 - Warner Premier
MPAA Rating: PG
Feature running time: 101 minutes
Genre: Family

Disc Format: BD-25
Encoding: VC1 (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 1.85:1
Resolution: 1080p/24

Audio Format(s): English DTSHD-MA 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Starring: Beau Bridges, Bindi Irwin
Directed by: Will Geiger
Music by: Enis Rotthoff
Written by: Will Geiger & Cindy McCreery
Region Code: A

Blu-ray Disc release Date: March 23, 2010

"A little girl, a little orca and big, big fun and adventure!"

Film Synopsis:

After young Kirra (Bindi Irwin) leaves her Australian home to summer with her grandfather (Beau Bridges) in South Africa, she soon discovers a baby orca stranded in the lagoon near her grandfather’s rundown seaside amusement park. She names the lonely whale Willy – and embarks on a great quest to lead the little guy back to his anxious pod before her grandfather’s greedy rival turns Willy into a captive, moneymaking attraction at his slick theme park.

My Take:

When Kirra's (Bindi Irwin) Grandfather (Beau Bridges) asked her what to name their new (trapped) pet Orca, I cringed at the inevitable answer and knew it was a sign of what this screenplay had to come. Free Willy: Escape From Pirate's Cove was OK...OK if you are 10 and a fan of Brandi Irwin, the daughter of the late Steve Irwin (The Crocodile Hunter). She did a decent job and really shined when showing her passion for animals. Beau Bridges was just fine, making a paycheck and turning in a rather pedestrian but passable performance. The combo of CGI whales and real live whales worked, however the CGI was a bit 2002. Where this movie failed was in its pseudo character development and borderline after school special dialogue. If there was more embellishment of the key players, giving some weight to their 'plight's', Willy 4 might have crossed over from purely kids flick and kept me interested. The movie did have some redeeming qualities. I did enjoy the scenes where it was almost educational as Kirra took to training the trapped Whale, preparing it for when it inevitably gets back to the wild. Not a total disaster, Free Willy: Escape From Pirate's Cove is an obvious straight-to-video release that should keep your little one's attention for 100 minutes. Me?? When Kirra's Grandfather asked her what to name the whale, I wished it was 'Lee'.

Parental Guide:

Rated PG for mild thematic elements.

AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

Audio: 78

  • Dynamics: attachment.php?attachmentid=109944&d=1210373694

  • Low frequency extension: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373698

  • Surround Sound presentation: attachment.php?attachmentid=109944&d=1210373697

  • Clarity/Detail: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373697

  • Dialogue Reproduction: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373697

Video: 80

  • Resolution/Clarity: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373697

  • Black level/Shadow detail: attachment.php?attachmentid=109945&d=1210373699

  • Color reproduction: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373698

  • Fleshtones: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373696

  • Compression: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373692

Free Willy: Escape From Pirate's Cove comes to Blu-ray Disc from Warner Bros featuring 1080p VC1 encoded video and lossless DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 sound.

Free Willy: Escape From Pirate's Cove is a bit of a A/V conundrum. At times it looks amazing. Fine details are discernible on almost every surface and it's as sharp as a tack. Beau Bridges scruffy facial hair and his knit blanket look incredible as he is sitting on his La-Z-Boy. At times the colors are spot-on though over-saturated in a acceptable way. It doesn't have a glossy production as it is a straight to video release; this is evident when its limitations show their face. Black levels in the underwater/evening storm scene show a grayish tone and there are times where the color palette goes a bit off course. The bright and blue sky over the many beach shots has some video noise that is obviously not film grain. The DTS-HD MA audio is rather flat. The track is not very dynamic and most things seem to have the same volume level and spatial location in the sound-stage. There was plenty of opportunity for chirping birds, wind and water to fill the surrounds but unfortunately there is not much activity. Don't get me wrong, its a passable track, just not near the top of the heap. Dialogue is always clear and the underwater scenes do sound great. Waves, whale's splashing and a terrible storm show off Willys' best asset, its powerful LFE track.

Bonus Features:

  • (HD) Meet My Wild Co-Stars

  • (HD) Bindi's First Movie Video Diary

  • (HD) Greetings from South Africa

  • (HD) Free Willy Pop Up Fun Facts

  • (HD) Postcard Pods

  • DVD Copy

  • Digital Copy

Final Thoughts:

Free Willy: Escape From Pirate's Cove is a sub-par pre-teen bore that almost passed my kids flick test. If I don't care about the characters how can I, or a kid for that matter, get sucked in? A great children's film is timeless, this will be dated in about 6 months! I could be wrong as I am not 'Free Willy's' target demographic, but I seem easier to please than most adults when it comes to kids flicks. I can easily say skip the purchase but if your little one is wanting to see it...rental at best.


Lee Weber
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

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Old 03-29-2010, 02:51 AM
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Thanks for reviewing this one Lee. I kind of wanted to see it, but its not available through Blockbuster at the moment.
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Old 03-29-2010, 11:24 AM
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I'm gonna hold out for "Free Willy: The Cove" where a pod of orcas take it upon themselves to wreak massive revenge on Japanese whalers for their wholesale slaughter of dolphins. Box office gold!
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Old 04-02-2010, 01:23 AM
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Thanks for reviewing this one Lee. I kind of wanted to see it, but its not available through Blockbuster at the moment.
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Old 04-05-2010, 09:10 AM
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Boy Hollywood is going to milk this Free Willy franchise for all it's worth. What is this the 8th Free Willy movie. The original was actually pretty good. The story made you care, because you felt bad for the boy and how hard his life was. These new Free Willy movies are basically pointless. The characters are basically bland, and unimaginative. What's worse is that Hollywood doesn't even seem to care anymore. They actually believe that not only you are stupid, but you have loads of cash that you are willing to give them like it's some charity cause. Please Hollywood. Just stop. Stop now while you still have some credibility. I know you have probably already started filming Free Willy # 9 and I am sure it will all leave us hanging on the edge of our seats wondering what happens. Wait hold on, I bet I know how it ends. The whale gets trapped by some evil, evil men and some little cute kid sets it free.

Blah blah blah.

This is why I only watch Indy movies lately. Because that is about the only place you find great film making any more. I have basically stopped watching, and buying for that matter, anything that Hollywood puts out.

BTW, great review Lee.
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