Big Miracle

Posted February 8, 2012 by in


Total Score

1.5/ 5

Quick Stats

Genre: drama
Director: Ken Kwapis
MPAA Rating: PG
Actors: Drew Barrymore, John Krasinski, John Pingayak
Length: 107 minutes
Release Date: 2/3/2014
Studio: Universal Pictures, Anonymous Content, Working Title Films
What We Thought

It doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three giant California Gray Whales don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world…

by Daniel Hodgson
Full Article
The Inupiat town of Barren, Alaska has run out of news for reporter Adam Carlson (John Krasinksi).  He’s about to head back to Anchorage, when through his camera he spots water spouting from a hole in the ice.  He rushes over to investigate, where it turns out that a family of whales are using the hole to come up for air.  The water’s surface is covered with ice for miles, leaving the whales trapped.
     Carlson’s coverage goes national, and attracts the attention of activist Rachel Kramer (Drew Barrymore), who has history with Carlson.  An insider tells Kramer that the Alaskan Northern Drilling Company has a special barge that can break through the ice.  CEO J. W. McGraw (Ted Danson) figures it’s good P.R., and consents to use his barge to save the whales.
     But it’s not that easy, as several complications ensue.  The barge must be carried by helicopters to reach Barren, and may not make it in time.  As the temperature nosedives, the hole in the ice is freezing over, almost closing.  It looks grim for the whales, and the Inupiat people consider harvesting the whales for food.  Not only that, but the governor resists sending in the National Guard to assist, who don’t want to endanger human lives to save the sea creatures.
     And that’s where Big Miracle starts getting into murky water.  It makes a case for both sides.  On the one hand, the whales are living creatures just as we are, and all life has value.  When we know our lives are in danger, we’re frightened, so we reason the whales must be as well.  On the other hand, is the life of three whales worth human lives? asks Colonel Scott Boyer (Dermot Mulroney).  The problem with Big Miracle is that it makes a stronger case for not achieving the goal of the film than it does for it.  It doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three giant California Gray Whales don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world…
      The story comes from inspiration—the real life story of the effort to rescue the whales—but is not itself inspiring.  All the characters are in it for their own gain, which doesn’t help us care for the whales much ourselves.  The Inupiat consider helping these three whales, but only so that they can continue whaling in the future, as harvesting the whales on camera would bring unwanted attention.  The CEO is in it for the P.R., as are the Alaskan governor and outgoing President Reagan.  The only person who cares is Kramer, but she lacks the charisma for us to share her compassion.  I guess the big miracle was that something good can come from self-interested human nature.  How heartwarming.
     Big Miracle is scatterbrained, unable to make up its mind who or what it’s about, and is padded with subplots, including a love triangle between Carlson, Kramer, and news reporter Jill Jerard (Kristen Bell), who has a rivalry with the station’s top anchor.  This is more complicated than a family film about rescuing whales needs to be.  The politics of the media and the careers of TV journalists will disinterest children, while the romances lack spark and chemistry for adults.  Big Miracle has a few laughs and is inoffensive, but overall ineffective.

About the Author

Daniel Hodgson

Daniel has a degree in film from the University of Texas at Austin, and writes about himself in the third-person, because that's the fashion.


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