‘Big Miracle’ is a Joy to Behold

by on December 11th, 2010
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Movies released in the first two months of any year tend to stink. It’s not a rule and this fact is certainly not based on an intention to release bad movies; it’s a function of Hollywood studios seeking a time of light movie-going during which to off-load a troubled project that does not hold the potential to battle the box office behemoths of the Spring, Summer and Winter seasons.

This fact makes a movie like “Big Miracle” all the more welcome. This delightful story, based on real life events, is thoughtful, sweet, harrowing and, in the end, uplifting; a very rare combination at this oft-neglected time of the movie-going year.

Based on a true story

Drew Barrymore stars in “Big Miracle” as Rachel Kramer a Greenpeace activist who, when we meet her, is living in Alaska and battling a big oil company, headed by J.W McGraw (Ted Danson), over drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Preserve. When Rachel hears the story of a trio of whales trapped off the coast of an Alaskan whaling village she begins an extraordinary campaign to free the trapped creatures that becomes an international cause.

The reporter who uncovers the whale story happens to be Rachel’s ex-boyfriend Adam (John Krasinski). Yes, this fact is a plot convenience but get over it; Barrymore and Krasinski have good banter and romantic chemistry and that brings another layer of joy to “Big Miracle.” Also adding to the joy of this terrific, heartfelt little movie is young Ahmaogak Sweeney who plays Nathan, a native of the village; grandson of a local whaling captain, and our narrator.

A colorful and clever supporting cast

There are minor missteps in “Big Miracle” like the casting of Kristen Bell and John Michael Higgins as heartless reporters chasing the whale story for ratings, but for the most part the film is spot on. The majority of the supporting cast is populated by colorful characters like Rob Riggle and James Le Gros as a pair of brothers from Minnesota who’s de-icing machine for ice fisherman becomes a key component in keeping the breathing holes open for the whales.

Director Ken Kwapis is a veteran storyteller from TV’s “The Office” and the big screen teen adventure “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.” Kwapis has a real knack for combining heart and humor without seeming cloying or manipulative. In “Big Miracle” he takes a real life story and invests it with relatable warmth and a cast that earns our sympathy from the opening frame.

Smiling, laughing and Cheering

“Big Miracle” may be the big surprise of the early portion of 2012. This sweet family-friendly does have moments that will be hard for young children to watch but by the end the whole family will be smiling, laughing and cheering.

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