Loosely inspired by the actual 1988 international effort to rescue three gray whales trapped in pack ice in Alaska, director Ken Kwapis’ Big Miracle is a warm family movie with a big heart. The film works in no small part due to the simple charming appeal of its two main leads: veteran actors Drew Barrymore (Never Been Kissed) and John Krasinski (US TV Series: The Office).
The movie begins with small time TV reporter Adam Carlson (Krasinski) who, having exhausted everything newsworthy, hopes to catch a big story and move away from North Alaska. While filming some silly antics of the local Inuit natives, Carlson, to his wide eyed amazement, discovers three beautiful whales, including a baby he affectionately names ‘Bam Bam’, caught in the freezing Alaskan nothingness.
His account on the plight of the majestic sea creatures draws international attention, bringing to town journalists from all over the world, including his TV crush, Jill Jerard (Kristen Bell), a reporter who desperately wants to be noticed for more than her looks. Also in town is Carlson’s ex-girlfriend Rachel Kramer (Barrymore), a passionate Green Peace environmentalist. Rachel soon butts heads with oil tycoon J W McGraw (Ted Danson), a business man looking to drill for laskan oil, and with the local Inuit leaders’ council who want to kill the whales for food.
The whale of a tale really gets serious when it catches the attention of the world superpowers USSR, and the United States, two nations that share an icy relationship. Respective leaders Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan cooperate on a rescue operation, using the event to briefly defrost the cold war. Eventually, like the world leaders, all those involved put aside their differences, while aided by Carlson and local entrepreneurs, to come together on a common cause, even though they have varying political and personal motives.
Some may argue that Big Miracle, with its one dimensional characters and feel good clichés, too readily glosses over the actual facts of the international rescue event, taking an overly simplistic view, purely for entertainment value. However, Big Miracle isn’t a documentary, and works as a spirited movie that can easily bait and hook audiences with its absorbing and humorous narrative. And while it avoids diving to great depths, Big Miracle is still a fairly big catch.
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, April 8th, 2012.