Big Miracle is a harmless family film. If you’re looking for a nice, wholesome movie to take the kids to this weekend, this is a fine choice. But if you don’t have kids clamoring to go see something, there’s no reason to pay for this one. It’s “inspired by” the true story of three gray whales that got trapped beneath rapidly forming arctic ice in Northern Alaska in 1988 and the international effort to save them. And it’s a good thing it’s based on actual events, otherwise this whale tale would be way too far-fetched. It just goes to show you sometimes truth is stranger (or cheesier) than fiction.
John Krasinski plays Adam Carlson a reporter for an Anchorage TV station covering the small towns in northern Alaska. While he’s in Barrow, he files a story on the trapped whales that gets the attention of the network boys in New York City. In short order, the tiny town is inundated by TV crews and reporters and the whales are headline news on evening newscasts around the world. When Adam’s ex-girlfriend, Greenpeace activist Rachel Kramer, played by Drew Barrymore, hears about the whales, she heads right up there to organize efforts to save them. The Inuit people in town have been keeping the hole in the ice open where the whales are surfacing to breathe. But they realize it’s a lost cause and they want to harvest the whales for food. Rachel, of course, will not hear of it! The Inuits eventually realize it would be a PR nightmare for them to be filmed killing whales so they join in the efforts to save them.Before you know it an oil tycoon (Ted Danson) who’s more concerned with drilling rights than marine mammals is also involved in the rescue mission. Then the National Guard, the White House and eventually the Russians — or “the Reds” as Dermot Mulroney’s character, a National Guard Colonel, calls them — all get in on the act. See what I mean about it all being too much if it weren’t true? I will say that at least the characters are more than the one dimensional cliches they could have been. They didn’t paint the big bad oil tycoon as a total anti-environment villain and the Greenpeace activist wasn’t a completely sympathetic character. (In fact, she completely irritated me and I found her very unlikeable despite the fact that I am a Greenpeace supporter.)
In the end everyone involved was a hero and ultimately, this true story had a happy Hollywood ending — for the most part — so they didn’t have to fake that for the movie. One other thing they didn’t fake was the archival news footage they wove throughout the movie. For me, that was the best part of the movie — especially one completely out of context clip at the very end. (I won’t spoil it for you.) So if you do have to sit through this one with the kids, you’ll have the clips of Brokaw, Jennings and Rather to keep you amused.