Big Miracle

Saving the Anchorage Whales


03 February 2012| No Comments on Big Miracle     by Sean Chavel


A crowd-pleaser that accommodates the adults along with their children. Big Miracle is an inspirational saving the whales family movie that eschews sentimental glop. John Krasinski (TV’s “The Office”) has his first good big-screen role as the broadcast news reporter that breaks the story: In 1988, three gray whales were trapped in the Arctic Ice with the threat that glaciers would freeze over and suffocate them to death. Drew Barrymore is annoying as the know-it-all Greenpeace activist, but the movie’s screenwriter says something about how the hoity-toity tree huggers can diminish their own cause with their uppity righteousness. We get the two-sided complexity of a doubting National Guard colonel (Dermot Mulroney) and a big drilling oil man (Ted Danson) looking for positive publicity who also wants to be seen as a humanitarian. Damn if these characters don’t keep it real, but surprisingly, they’re never dumbed down.

Young audiences might actually learn something too about the powerful sway of media coverage and the canvassing motives of executive government (we get angles of Ronald Reagan from the back of his head a couple of times). Leading the campaign is one of Reagan’s public relations staffers played by Vinessa Shaw (if you’re older, you might remember her as a streetwalker who propositions Tom Cruise in “Eyes Wide Shut”). So it’s actually a staffer who selects the cause and does the work, and the President is the designated spokesman? So that’s how that works!

I liked Shaw, and I also liked Tim Blake Nelson as a marine specialist, Rob Riggle as a Minnesota man with a de-thawing ice machine, and Kristen Bell as a reporter from a bigger network who softens a bit from Krasinski’s nice-guy talk. The only person I didn’t like is John Michael Higgins as a bighead anchor looking to steal credit for the story, but when have I ever liked him?

But this observation takes away from the news that “Big Miracle” features some remarkable whale footage, that the wall of ice feels “location” real, and that an Eskimo tribe is predominantly configured into the story – they’re hunters who have chosen to not skin these particular whales, and lend aid to the rescue. They even get intelligent speaking parts. Here’s a family entertainment that sees whales as they really are, and people that way, too.

106 Minutes. Rated PG.


Film Cousins: “Free Willy” (1993); “Fly Away Home” (1996); “March of the Penguins” (2004); “Dolphin Tale” (2011).


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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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