In 1988, three California gray whales found themselves trapped in the ice off the northernmost point of the United States, some 300 miles above the Arctic Circle. As word quickly spread, the whales garnered the attention of everyone from Greenpeace to the Russian Navy. "Big Miracle" is their story.
And it's an amazing story. The script, by Jack Amiel and Michael Begler, stays mostly true to the events, with regards to the whales, as they actually unfolded. But packed in around this incredible drama are a number of subplots that do little more than distract from the story.
The film stars John Krasinski as a TV news reporter stranded in Point Barrow, Alaska, stuck doing stories about how much the locals love guacamole. But one day, while videotaping snowmobile tricks, he catches sight of a flume of water shooting up from an opening in the ice. Before you know it, the story is running on the Anchorage affiliate and then gets picked up by Tom Brokaw's national news broadcast on NBC (of course, this being a Universal film).
Soon reporters and well-intentioned nuts from around the globe are descending on Point Barrow, and the Reagan administration and a oil driller (Ted Danson) are joining the rescue effort in a cynical attempt to burnish their respective images with environmentalist. After days of desperately trying to cut a path to freedom for the ice, it becomes apparent that the whales' only hope for survival is a Russian ice cutter patrolling a nearby area.
Drew Barrymore stars as Rachel, a Greenpeace activist who just happens to be Adam's ex-girlfriend. Rachel is a tree-hugger right out of the GOP's central casting: unkempt, self-righteous, pushy, rude, ideological, totally lacking in nuance—in short, totally unpleasant. Is it any wonder Adam dumped her? Why wouldn't he be make googly eyes at LA-based reporter Jill Jerard (Kristen Bell), with whom he gets drunk and commiserates about the state of her career?
And director Ken Kwapis fails to mine the story for any real tension, which is a shame, because there's plenty available. Among the factions involved in the whole kerfuffle, you've got whale-eating Inuit, Greenpeace, Big Oil, the U.S. military, Ronald Reagan and the Commies—how is this not a white-knuckle ride? Because Hollywood thinks folks are more interested in Adam's romance with Rachel, or Jill's frustrations with her job prospects.
"Big Miracle" isn’t nearly the film it could've been, but beneath all the Hollywood dreck is an inspiring story about a group of people who managed to get over themselves long enough to do some good.
"Big Miracle" opens in theaters everywhere Friday, February 3rd.