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Big Miracle


Stars: Drew Barrymore, John Krasinski, Kristen Bell, Dermot Mulroney, Ahmaogak Sweeney, John Pingayak, Tim Blake Nelson, Ted Danson, Vinessa Shaw, James LeGros, Rob Riggle, John Chase

Director: Ken Kwapis

Yet another film “Inspired by true events” which, all too often in Hollywood, stands for “only the facts have been changed to make a better fist at the box-office”. In fairness I should state there is enough real-life archive footage from the original 1988 ‘save-the-whale’ frenzy that ‘inspired’ the 1999 book Freeing the Whales by journalist Thomas Rose that in turn inspired the screenplay for Big Miracle by Jack Amiel and Michael Begler to give the show a core of reality.

That said, it is so relentlessly warm-hearted that it could melt both polar icecaps and drown the planet and so determinedly nice that is makes the average Disney family film seem sadistic and scummy. And, despite the reality sequences from contemporary television coverage, the studio set-up for ice-bound Alaska looks as fake as a politician’s promise most of the time (and, unlike the Dead in The Woman in Black), nobody’s breath is visible in the (alleged) Arctic in which the tale is set.

The story’s simple. Grey whales are trapped under the Arctic ice and facing imminent death, catalysing an entire community and, eventually, all of the USA and even a Red Menace Russian icebreaker, to unite to help them make their way to the open sea and safety.

Central to director Kwapis’ sugar-saturated telling of the tale are Barrymore, playing a gobby Greenpeace activist and Alaskan television reporter Krasinksi around whose actions – including their inevitable romantic reunion – the saga is set. Others involved include Damson (whose hairpiece deserves an Oscar), Bell, Mulroney Jr, Shaw and Nelson and, hogging the camera whenever possible, the ingeniously animated grey whales. And, naturally, there’s a preternaturally cute little Eskimo lad (Sweeney) to make moms go ‘Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!” watching him have a whale of a time)

As family films go (and, for me, I regret to say it just didn’t go fast enough) it’s just fine. There’s nothing to upset kids (apart from Barrymore’s noisy outbursts) but accompanying adults might consider taking a torch and a good book as protection against the omnipresent niceness while diabetics should be warned against the sugar-saturated proceedings. (The distributors might consider having insulin available at the box-office).

Alan Frank

USA/UK 2012. UK Distributor: Universal. Colour.
107 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: U.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 11 Feb 2012