“The Big Miracle,” inspired by the true story of an attempted rescue of three whales in Barrow, Alaska, barely made a splash in the ocean of cinema. The film had too many subplots that detracted from its underlying themes of teamwork and environmentalism, while its frequent attempts at comic relief elicited strained chuckles from the audience at most. Forget saving the whales; the movie is what truly needed salvation.
Starring “The Office’s” John Krasinski as news reporter John Carlson, the film begins with a gorgeous shot of the Alaskan waters. Unbeknownst to me at the time, it would be the most engaging moment I’d witness within the next hour and a half. After completing a series of news reports in the small town, John has befriended a number of its natives, including a young boy named Nathan (Ahmaogak Sweeney). While filming in a remote area with Nathan, he spots a family of gray whales trapped in the ice. He discovers that these whales cannot follow their usual migration route and risk death if left unassisted. The situation soon gains national attention as numerous individuals become involved for an assortment of reasons. One particular person, Greenpeace activist and Carlson’s ex-girlfriend Rachel Kramer (Drew Barrymore), literally dives in headfirst to protect the whales.
As the film progresses, more and more characters spring up in a fruitless attempt to liven the storyline. Jill Jerard (Kristen Bell) becomes John’s love interest, to the disapproval and jealousy of Rachel. I found it difficult to decipher what demographic the filmmakers geared toward; excessive instances of romance and references to politics would cause children to complain, while the cheesy dialogue would unquestionably induce groans from adults. The exchanges between Krasinski and Barrymore’s characters reveal their severe lack of chemistry as well. In fact, it began to appear like a romantic comedy gone wrong.
The mediocre acting added to my abundance of disappointment. In a crucial scene toward the conclusion, Rachel breaks down in front of a crowd of onlookers as she kneels on the ice. Not a single tear is shed, although Barrymore succeeds in making hideous expressions and unconvincing whimpers. Krasinski fares slightly better, as his usual comedic approach brings a bit of much-needed amusement to the film.
Watching the entire film without drifting into slumber was the only “big miracle” that occurred. Even the excellent cinematography lacked the capacity to entertain the small audience. I departed the theater longing for “Free Willy,” which reigns supreme in comparison to this unsuccessful whale movie.
Rating: 1.5 stars