A nostalgic film from my childhood that actually holds up pretty damn well...color me shocked. This was actually Jason James Richter's (who plays our hero Jesse) first time in a film, but you wouldn't be able to tell. He sells the hell out of his role, and is actually pretty great for a kid actor. Yes, he is kind of a dick for a good deal of the film but it's understandable why he's acting like this. The film also has some great supporting performances from the rest of the cast including Lori Petty, Jayne Atkinson, Michael Madsen (Who is actually very good here. He puts on a more quiet, nuanced but real and believable performance), August Schellenberg (one of the standouts from the supporting cast), and Mykelti Williamson (Back before he was Bubba from Forrest Gump). Around half the shots with Willy are done with an animatronic. I figured as much, but it was hard to tell when that was used (except for a few shots). The big iconic climax shot is also done with very obvious CGI. Free Willy treats Willy like an animal and treats him with a good amount of respect. Keiko, the whale who portrays Willy, seems to be very well trained and definitely impresses (his cries are haunting as well). The only thing that kind of bothered me is all the shots of Jesse jumping into Willy's tank, I'm pretty sure he'd be whale food after the first time. Free Willy can definitely be a little silly, but it works surprisingly well for the most part. I have no problems with classifying this one as a bona fide classic for kids and families.