I am not someone that PETA would put on their Humans We Hate List. I love Old Yeller and talk in a funny voice when cute animals pass me within a five-foot radius. I don't wear fur and don't use products tested on animals. But, I eat meat and wear leather…so I guess I could be on their We're Keeping an Eye on You List. Aside from that, an animal movie is usually just the ticket to make my eyes leak. Although Big Miracle didn't elicit one ounce, it did make me go "aw."
As is the case with most true stories, Hollywood-manufactured scripts tugging at my heartstrings are not so likely to make me marvel at the wonder and beauty of the planet because they stink of focus groups and long pages of script notes from an executive saying things like, "Let's make this character more urban with some kind of heart condition." Just like last year's surprise hit A Dolphin Tale, this film ends with news clips of the real people involved, making me wish I had spent the last two hours watching a documentary instead. But, I get it--statistically, more people enjoy watching that funny guy from The Office kissing on that crazy lady from E.T.. We've made our bed, so now we have to watch Dermot Mulroney fly a helicopter.
In 1988, three gray whales were trapped in Alaska when their normal path south froze over early, leaving them stranded and in great peril. When a news reporter named Adam (John Krasinski) and his wacky hippie ex-girlfriend Rachel (Drew Barrymore) get wind of it, their pleas for help get worldwide attention. The simplistic script draws broad strokes not making anyone a clear villain, assuring that everyone can rest easy knowing that sometimes even evil oil barons (Ted Danson) are willing to free Willy, even if it costs them millions. In fact, the movie is diminished by how fair it is to everyone. It's hard to refrain from rolling your eyes when Rachel is chastising the Inuits for hunting to keep their families alive, or when ambitious news reporter Jill Jerard (Kristen Bell) mercilessly charges ahead just to roll tape on a heartbreaking moment. But since everyone seems to be both shortsighted and big-hearted, it ends up balancing out in a strange way. The only real villain in the movie is the weather, working hard and fast to close up the whales' only breathing hole.
Although I've never been to Alaska, this movie taught me that man, is that place cold. So even though the story is chock full of characters that do very little to stir emotion, it's really all about saving the whales--and fast. If you know how the story ends, you'll know why the film pulled an "aw" out of me. I could have done without Hollywood's stock representations of what military leaders look like in meetings with environmentalists, but in the end, I was still smiling.