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"Big Miracle": Saving the Whales Doesn't Save Any Laughs 

Wednesday, Feb 8 2012

Starring everyone who wasn't in New Year's Eve—and larded with just as many bromides—Big Miracle is inspired by the true story of the end-of-the-Cold War effort to free three gray whales trapped by ice in northern Alaska. In October 1988, Adam (John Krasinski), a TV reporter from Anchorage doing some stories in tiny Barrow, discovers a trio of whales blocked by five miles of ice from swimming south to Mexico. Adam's segment on the creatures' plight is picked up by NBC Nightly News ("Brokaw loves these stories"). As the other major networks follow suit, rescuing the whales becomes an excellent PR opportunity for Greenpeace activist Rachel (Drew Barrymore), big-oil executive J.W. McGraw (Ted Danson), an Alaska National Guard colonel (Dermot Mulroney), a staffer for Ronald Reagan (Vinessa Shaw)—and for the glasnost-era Soviet Union. Directed by Ken Kwapis (He's Just Not That Into You), Big Miracle leans heavily on anthropomorphizing the underwater giants. "Everybody loves whales," Adam says. If so, that affection mutates into narcissistic personality disorder as Rachel, Adam's ex, cries to him: "Even though they're big and powerful, they're so much like us. We're vulnerable, and we get scared, and we need help sometimes, too." Barrymore is frequently called upon to deliver sanctimonious rants followed by tears, and Krasinski to soothe her by reminding her of her limits. While rooting for the marine mammals, your heart will also go out to the cast, stuck even more pitiably in syrupy manufactured crises.

About The Author

Michael Atkinson


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