While watching ‘Big Miracle’, thoughts will continually flood into your mind about how contrived, by-the-book and formulaic this story of a multinational effort to free three whales trapped in the arctic ice of northern Alaska is. Yet as cheesy and made-up as the whole thing appears, when actual footage of the real-life people and events are shown during the closing credits, you’ll realize that most of the movie is indeed factual – including the really lame stuff. This makes for a feel-good family film much better than its recent oceanic counterpart, ‘Dolphin Tale’.
In October 1988, a desperate local news anchor (John Krasinski) strives to find newsworthy stories in the tiny frozen town of Point Barrow, Alaska. When he randomly discovers three whales under the ice-covered surface of the ocean more than five miles from open water, he knows that he has a good story on his hands. Unable to swim for five miles without resurfacing for air, the whales will surely drown.
Before long, his story makes national news and the whole thing turns into a wild press frenzy. Reporters show up from all over the world looking to capture footage of the three gray whales. Volunteers offer time, resources and money to save the whales. The dangers at hand include keeping the ice hole from freezing over in 40-below temperatures, transporting an ice-breaking hovercraft via helicopter, and cutting a string of man-made holes across the five-mile stretch to freedom.
The ensemble cast includes Drew Barrymore as an uptight Greenpeace leader, Kristen Bell as an up-and-coming Los Angeles news anchor, Ted Danson as an oil tycoon, Tim Blake Nelson as a scientist, Stephen Root as Governor Haskell, John Michael Higgins as an ‘Anchorman‘-esque news anchor, Rob Riggle as an inventor with a product that could change the game, and Dermot Mulroney as a weekend warrior chopper pilot.
‘Big Miracle’ isn’t the greatest feel-good movie, but considering how much of it is actually based on the true story, it’s far better than most. With that said, know that you’re stepping into corny family-friendly film – for which there’s always a time and place.