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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Big Miracle (review)

John Krasinski Drew Barrymore Big Miracle

First there was Baby Jessica down the well in Texas. Then it was a family of three whales stuck in the ice in Alaska. It was the 80s, before we had the Internet to distract us all day long, and we had to make do with nonstop 24-hour cable-news coverage of breaking-new crises. If you’d like a reminder of what kept us amused in that infotainment desert, have a gander at Big Miracle, a surprisingly pleasant dramatization — with a lot of license taken — of the whale story, told through the eyes of the TV news reporter (a pleasant John Krasinski: Something Borrowed) who broke the story and the Greenpeace activist (a pleasant Drew Barrymore: Going the Distance) who worked tirelessly to embarrass the powers that be into helping free the whales. Disaster, as it turns out, isn’t just good for TV ratings but also for getting politicians to do things that need doing, via the threat of bad PR if they fail to do everything possible. Maybe it comes across as just a tad too easy to get the Alaska governor (Stephen Root [J. Edgar], whom I wish was in this more; also, there’s not enough of Tim Blake Nelson’s [The Big Year] whale biologist) to call out the National Guard, and maybe it comes across as just a tad too easy to get an oil exec (Ted Danson: Mad Money) to lend the use of a badass icebreaking barge, and maybe it’s comes across as a tad too easy to get the President of the United States to ask the Soviets for the assistance of an even badder-ass icebreaking ship. But what the hay: Feel-good hokum is achieved with a minimum of groans induced thanks to director Ken Kwapis’ light touch (which is actually unexpected, given his track record of dreck including the very bad He’s Just Not That Into You and the appalling License to Wed). Based on the book Freeing the Whales by Thomas Rose [Amazon U.S.] [Amazon Canada] [Amazon U.K.], this may put a Hollywood gloss on a hard reality, but it does, to my mind, slyly pose an important question: How can we be so good in a crisis and so lousy at mobilizing for the long-term? If we can get so worked up as a nation — as a planet! — in order to save three whales, why can’t we save all of them?


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watch at home

Big Miracle (2012)
US/Can release: Feb 3 2012
UK/Ire release: Feb 10 2012

Flick Filosopher Real Rating: rated 2A (contains awe and aww)
MPAA: rated PG for language
BBFC: rated PG (contains infrequent mild language)

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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