Big Miracle is an interesting movie as it tells of an event where many may not know its origins. Everyone, for the most part, knows of Greenpeace and the Save the Whales movement but can anyone recall the specific event or location involved? Big Miracle is overly sweet and emotional at times, but the interesting story and the need to make many of the characters actual people instead of archetypes, elevates the somewhat predictable material.
In Barrow, Alaska, small-time reporter Adam Carlson (John Krasinski) notices three whales trapped under some ice and unable to get to the open ocean. What starts as a routine story captives an overeager Greenpeacer named Rachel (Drew Barrymore) adamant on saving them. The rescue effort gets impeded by a native tribe wanting to harvest the whales, and an oil-driller wanting to drill into the land.
The strongest element in Big Miracle is how normally stereotypical characters are given three dimensions. The typical sanctimonious characters have flaws, and the villains aren’t all bad. The local Inupiat tribesmen could have been seen as bizarre and heartless for wanting to harvest whales but the story takes the time to explore and emphasis how it’s part of their heritage and traditions. Even our heroine Rachel can be a bit overzealous and mean at times, seen when she doesn’t get the response she wants from said Inupiat tribe and proclaims that she’ll paint them to be villains. Heck, even the oil driller played by Ted Danson goes the extra mile to be a good person. It’s shocking how connected I was to these characters because they weren’t stock or so defined that they were caricatures. The whales are majestic and given time to be shown as such and the underwater scene with Barrymore are worth seeing.
The problem is the film is incredibly predictable and at times a bit bland. The love story between Adam and Rachel felt shoehorned in. At certain times the audience is meant to be focused on the whales but, oh wait, look at the cute couple. Even in a moment of sadness they have to force a romance and this is between a girl that our leading man said drove him insane! Certain moments also felt rushed, like the arrival of the Russians (who knew the Russians helped us save the whales) was solved far too quickly and this was at the height of the Cold War! Our actors are also not nearly as dynamic as they should be, easily fitting into their predefined personas. Krasinski is the nice guy, Barrymore is the quirky tree hugger and Kristen Bell is the bitchy blond. While the script gives these characters dimension, the actors fail to do so.
Big Miracle is better than expected but it’s still a predictable “save the whales film.” It’s a solid rental on DVD but only a theater visit if you’re a diehard fan of whales or the actors.