The family friendly message of “let’s all work together” gets a little buried under what the movie actually sets out to teach us: Nobody wants to look bad, everyone has an agenda, and good PR can accomplish anything.
Very local reporter Adam (John Krasinski, The Office) breaks a national news story when he finds three grey whales trapped underneath the ice in Barrow, Alaska, with only a single hole in the ice for breathing and no access to the open ocean. Soon the entire world is captivated by the story as a Greenpeace Activist (Drew Barrymore, Whip It), an oil baron (Ted Danson, Bored to Death), a National Guard Colonel (Dermot Mulroney, J. Edgar), a group of Inupiaq Inuits, and scores of reporters flock to Barrow to see how they can help. The struggle to free the whales forces everyone to work together despite their differences and also asks every character to evaluate what’s really important.
Big Miracle works great when focusing on all of the clashing agendas and personal vendettas of the characters in regards to freeing the whales. There are a lot of perspectives at play and each one is given a turn at the microphone. Similarly effective are every scene where people are gathered around the hole in the ice. Every tense effort to keep that water from freezing and every increasingly larger scale effort to cut the whales a path to the ocean kept me involved. Unfortunately, I was checking my watch every time the writers tried to develop the relationships between the humans in the film. The relationships of the characters feel forced for the sake of convenience or manipulation and as I quietly begged for them not to try and sprinkle a romantic sub-plot over a movie about empathy for animals, they just couldn’t help themselves. The final romantic connection feels so overtly forced that it almost ruined the entire movie for me.
John Krasinski is just too likeable for words, but he almost overdoes the Mister Nice Guy routine this time. Despite that, having this guy in your movie is like chumming the water for good actors that hop back and forth between film and TV; also appearing are Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars), Stephen Root (Pushing Daisies), Tim Blake Nelson (Chaos), John Michael Higgins (Community), James LeGros (Mildred Pierce), and I already mentioned Danson.
A word of caution to parents: And this is a BIG SPOILER ALERT…you’ve now been officially warned…but some little ones may have a hard time facing the real-life loss of the littlest whale.My personal opinion: A fine effort from a good cast, but you don’t have to run to the theater for it. Fine for the kids when it gets to video.
—Words by Jake Jarvi