“Big Miracle” is not inspired by the true story of the U.S. hockey team beating Russia in the 1980 Winter Olympics. That was 2004’s “Miracle”. In this movie the Americans and Russians actually work together, to try to save three whales. And, yes, it’s also based on an actual event.
John Krasinski (from TV’s “The Office”) stars as Adam, a TV news reporter working in Barrow, Alaska (which is located above the Arctic Circle) back in 1988. One day he discovers that three large, grey whales are trapped in the ice, with only one small hole for them to come to the surface to breathe. He does a story on the whales which is shown on the NBC Nightly News. Soon everyone, from school kids to the President of the United States, becomes interested in the plight of this whale family.
Including Adam’s ex-girlfriend Rachel, played by Drew Barrymore. She’s the leader of Greenpeace, and she comes to Barrow to try to use her power to get the help needed to free the whales. And there’s Ted Danson, who plays as an evil and greedy oil company executive and Kristen Bell, as TV reporter sent from L.A. to cover the story. And there are plenty of local Alaskans on hand. They all come together to try to save the whales.
And that’s pretty much it. “Big Miracle” is a one-note film. It’s all about saving these whales, who are given the Flintstones names Fred, Wilma and Bamm-Bamm for some reason. Some inspirational movies that are based on a true story grab you emotionally and really make you care about what’s going to happen. “Big Miracle” just floats there, like a dead goldfish in a bowl, for nearly two hours. You’re hoping that maybe it’s going to come to life and starting swimming around, but it never does.
One of the main problems is that the three whales just aren’t likeable. All they do is pop-up out of the water for a few seconds and then go back down. Over and over and over. Very tough for the filmmakers to get the audience to make a connection with key characters who have no personality. Compare this to “Dolphin Tale”, whose main character, an injured dolphin, was fun and very likeable. It also helped that the dolphin in “Dolphin Tale” was real. It’s very obvious that the three whales in “Big Miracle” are animatronic creations.
As for the performances, they are shockingly bad, led by Barrymore. But it’s not entirely her fault, as the dialogue she and the rest of the cast is forced to deliver is pretty corny. And there are some scenes that are utterly ridiculous, including the ones involving President Reagan and the Russians, that could have been part of a Saturday Night Live skit.
“Big Miracle” is rated PG for some mild language. It’s appropriate for kids 9 and up. Parents – don’t get tricked into thinking it’s a fun, cute movie about whales. It’s a long, talky movie about “saving whales”. The two six year olds who sat a row ahead of me in the theater quickly got bored and want to leave. The same will likely happen in your house. Come to think of it, that’s kinda how I felt. The only thing that kept me going was the actual news footage of the whale rescue story that’s used throughout the film. It was fun seeing Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw and the late Peter Jennings once again.
On The Official L-C-J Report Card, “Big Miracle” gets a C-.
This movie was originally called “Everybody Loves Whales”. Good decision to change that, since it kept critics from writing things like: “Little to love about ‘Everybody Loves Whales’.” Though that still applies to the film.