From the trailers, “Big Miracle” seemed like a cheesy, feel-good movie with little plot. I was even more skeptical when my roommate and I were half the people in the theater. The movie didn’t disappoint, but it didn’t impress either.
“Big Miracle” details the true story of a 1988 rescue of three whales trapped in the ice in Alaska. Details are changed, and characters are added, but much of the movie is true to what happened 24 years ago.
The story begins with Adam Carlson (John Krasinski), a journalist covering Barrow, Alaska. After spotting three whales in a small opening in the ice he discovers, through the natives, that the whales only have a few days to live before the ice will cover their opening and they will drown. He covers the story in a news piece, which then becomes the springboard for national coverage of the whales’ life and death situation.
Adam’s ex-girlfriend Rachel Kramer (Drew Barrymore) is a Greenpeace volunteer, and when she sees Adam’s report on the whales, she immediately jumps into action. She bullies the governor into calling in the National Guard and tries to raise national awareness of the issue.
Rachel has been fighting oil tycoon J.W. McGraw (Ted Danson) on drilling and the effect it will have on the animals and wildlife for most of the movie, so when McGraw becomes a pivotal part of the whale rescue, she is skeptical.
At the beginning of the movie, any conflict is solved quickly and easily, and I began to wonder what the directors were going to do with the hour they had left. When a barge to break the ice was needed, McGraw supplied it after very little prompting from his wife. When they needed the National Guard to pull the helicopters, the governor called them in after a five minute conversation with Rachel. Because everything is solved so quickly in the first half, there is no tension for the rest of the movie.
Even in critical moments for the whales, it seems obvious that everything will turn out alright in the next few minutes.
The movie focuses on many characters, some of which seem pointless. “Big Miracle” attempts to have six main characters, which distances the audience from the two or three most important characters. It is difficult to fully connect and empathize with Rachel when the movie quickly switches from her to Jill Jerard (Kristen Bell), the journalist Adam likes.
Many of the characters seem like afterthoughts thrown in because the movie wasn’t relatable enough or didn’t have enough conflict. A family of four is shown throughout the movie, with the children watching news reports on the whales and writing reports on them for school. As the movie continued and the family continued to pop up, I thought that maybe they would turn out to be the family of one of the characters, because they seemed completely pointless otherwise. In the end, they were just a random family, added in perhaps to show the national effect of the whale rescue.
Despite the lack of focus on any individual characters, the acting in “Big Miracle” is good. Aside from a few scenes with unimportant characters, the actors play their roles well and seem to stay true to the real people the movie is based on. The credits include footage from the original 1988 rescue, and many of the clips closely parallel the acting in the movie.
Surprisingly, the movie handles the political issues it focuses on well. It tries to show both sides of the story without bias, and it manages to humanize the typical Hollywood villains. The head of the oil company has a human side, and he genuinely cares about the whales and rescuing them, which is a refreshing change from the usual one-dimensional big business villain usually seen in similar movies. Rachel even says, “You aren’t as easy to hate as I thought,” to which McGraw replies, “Neither are you.”
“Big Miracle” focuses on teamwork despite differences and the value of human and animal life, but it fails to capture viewers, despite the vast story they had to work with. It is disjointed and oddly paced, and it almost comes across more as a romantic comedy, with the whales as a driving force for Rachel and Adam’s unrealistic relationship. The movie is entertaining when taken for what it is – a fluffy adaption of a true story that could have been much more impactful.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Ainslee Mac Naughton at Ainslee.firstname.lastname@example.org.