Hollywood's latest "based on a true story" project, "Big Miracle" presents the efforts of a motley crew of whale rescuers in Barrow, Alaska in 1988. In it, small-town TV reporter Adam Carlson (John Krasinski) stumbles upon three whales trapped in the arctic ice and unknowingly creates an international media sensation.
Carlson's broadcast is soon picked up across various national news outlets, spawning a wave of public interest and the attention of multiple chain-reaction players. Tiny Barrow is soon flooded with interested parties, including Greenpeace activist and former flame Rachel Kramer (Drew Barrymore), underdog news reporter Jill Jerard (Kristen Bell), oil magnate J.W. McGraw (Ted Danson) and a bevy of media personnel.
"Big Miracle" does a fair job of juggling the actions and motivations of these many players. The chain reaction cause-and-effect helps organize each character's entrance and keeps the film moving steadily without too much effort. Things get bogged down at times, which is expected when trying to accurately depict a frenzy like this one, but the the event-focused pacing helps keep things on track.
Even after the television coverage stops its role as a vehicle for bringing people into the cause, it remains a subtle motivator in driving the story. With the now-major media presence following the trapped whales' progress, the key decision makers – Greenpeace, Big Oil, the native Inuits and the U.S. government – face nationwide scrutiny. What results is a film that's almost as much about freeing the whale family (affectionately named Fred, Wilma and Bam-Bam) as it is about coming together for a singular good – even if it's simply good PR.
Fair warning: I won't play fast and loose with the spoilers, but because this is one of those "inspirational" films – and a Google-able historical event, no less – it's not hard to see where this is going.
Long story short, two of the three whales make it safely to open water through the collaboration of everyone mentioned above, plus a pair of bumbling, stereotypical Minnesotans and a ship full of much less stereotypical Soviet Navy personnel. And don't get mad about the "two of the three whales" comment. It's an animal movie; there's always a casualty.
All in all, "Big Miracle" isn't bad. Cheesy, yes, but only as much as it has to be.
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