Big Miracle: Feel-Good Family Film
Adam (Krasinski) is a journalist trapped in Barrow, Alaska wiling away
his time working on fluff pieces about guacamole and hanging out with the local
high school students. He accidentally stumbles across a story about three
trapped whales with five miles of ice between them and the open sea; a trip
they can’t make without coming up for air. As the temperature drops, the ice
grows thicker and the whales’ breathing holes starts to frost over, Adam, Greenpeace activist Rachel (Barrymore), the locals and a whole host of
journalists and opportunists have to race against time to get the whales out of
there before they die. Rachel harasses McGraw (Danson), the owner of an oil
company, into lending his boat, the only one in the vicinity big enough to
forge a path for the whales through the ice. Seeing an opportunity to drum up
some good PR for his company, he agrees and he joins the crowds waiting for the
ship to turn up before the ice become too thick for even it to penetrate.
The film is plain adorable; there really is no other word for it.
Krasinski, Barrymore and Bell are all too cute to handle, even if Bell’s
character is more interested in personal gain than in the whales. It’s heart-warming
how everyone learns how to get along and put aside their personal and
ideological differences for the sake of the trapped creatures. Even Rachel and
McGraw, who is the closest thing this film has to a villain, get over their
mutual loathing and the latter, who had been purely in it for the PR, becomes
completely committed to saving the whales.
The flipside to so much cute is that the film completely lacks any
tension or sense of danger. You never believe that anything truly bad could
happen to the whales because everybody’s just so nice.
The film takes place in the late 80s during the Reagan administration
and around the end of the Cold War. As a result it makes some pretty overt
political statements mostly about Reagan’s awful environmental record. Also, in
fitting with its 80s setting, the film contains some rock tracks from the era
in addition to lots of gravity defying hair.
Big Miracle has
a nice touch in that it shows Inuits’ way of life and their reverence of
nature. They’re shown hunting whales but at the same time it’s obvious that
they don’t prey in excess. In other words, they’re not the ones responsible for
the near extinction of whales. This point, while acknowledged, could have been
stronger by drawing a direct parallel between whales as food and cows/chickens
as food and their quality of life before being eaten. This may seem rather
superfluous but in such an adorable film, especially one that has you
emotionally connecting with the whales (the food), you need something stronger,
more direct, to prevent the viewer from demonizing the Inuits and their
Animals in need of saving always make a good rallying point and
surrounded by a cast as adorable as this, Big
Miracle becomes the definition of heart-warming. It may be conventional and
rather slow, but it has charm to spare.