I truly enjoyed this movie! Yes, it’s my aim to accentuate the positive in all my film write ups, but this is not me trying to be upbeat. I really would like to see Big Miracle do well because it works.
Not because of the whole “save the whales” thing. I am not an animal activist and I don’t give to Greenpeace. I respect all God’s creatures, because they’re here and we’re here sharing the same space; but otherwise I don’t give ’em much thought. In fact, I don’t remember anything about this whole story going viral in 1988; well, back then it was just called going national.
Big Miracle is based on the true events surrounding three California gray whales trapped in ice near Point Barrow, Alaska. This species of whale migrates between its summer feeding grounds in the North Pacific and Bering Sea and its winter breeding grounds in the lagoons of Baja California.
Only this particular year, the ocean path froze over earlier than usual, making it impossible for this family of whales to go forward on their journey or turn back. Their only option – keep coming to the surface of this relatively small hole in the ice in order to take breaths and keep the ice hole from freezing over too.
John Krasinski (The Office) plays news reporter Adam Carlson, he’s been stationed in Anchorage Alaska for the last couple of years and is looking to get picked up by almost any other news station. While doing some fluff reporting in Barrow, he happens across the whales in the hole. And it’s his reporting of the whales’ (Fred, Wilma, and Bamm-Bamm) dilemma that starts an avalanche of activity in this small, previously unknown Alaskan village.
What I like is how many points of view get woven together to tell this story: Rachel (Drew Barrymore) is the spokesperson for Greenpeace and former girlfriend of Adam. She’s militant, headstrong, and good at making the powers that be in Washington look bad in the press.
Ted Danson superbly plays the wealthy, arrogant, cocksure Oil Magnet with a God complex. I doubt Danson had to do much acting to play this part. Also in the mix: an aide to President Reagan (Vinessa Shaw) whose job is to make sure the President gets good mileage out of the story; The Coast Guard (Dermot Mulroney) in charge of the rescue operation, who thinks it’s a waste of valuable time and money, but at the same time, is all about duty; another ambitious news reporter looking for her big break (Kristen Bell); two clowns from Minnesota with a de-icing invention; the Barrow natives, including a wise man of the old ways, who’s trying to teach his Walkman-wearing grandson to respect something other than Def Leopard.
Trust me, I know it sounds convoluted and contrived, but it all fits. Director Ken Kwapis sets a good pace and 80’s hair and fashion is played down. Screenwriters Jack Amiel and Michael Begler (adapting the book by Thomas Rose) are able to keep the humor and schmaltz factor at good, believable levels. The message of people with different mindsets coming together to accomplish a single goal is inspiring, rather than manipulative.
The end of the film includes shots of the real life people the characters are based upon, so be sure to stay for the credits!
Big Miracle opens today in Philly-area theaters.