Big Miracle has a powerful story cleverly told

Big Miracle – 2012

Directed by Ken Kwapis
Starring John Krasinski, Drew Barrymore, Kristen Bell, Vinessa Shaw, Stephen Root, Ted Danson, Kathy Baker, Dermot Mulroney, Rob Riggle, Tim Blake Nelson, Michael Gaston, John Pingayak
Screenplay by Jack Amiel, Michael Begler

There’s something not quite amusing about noted leftists playing right wingers in movies and television.  There are no subtle hints or any sort of nuance.  Instead, we usually see them act out in the most obvious way every sort of thing that liberals believe conservatives think.  Otherwise decent actors, like Ted Danson, can be made to look like quite generic in this effort.

If this had been the only angle employed in Big Miracle, this film would have been a complete disaster.  Luckily, the film makers decided to give as many perspectives as possible while keeping to the framework of the story.  The viewer benefits from this, and it helps give the overall message a boost in that they let each person decide what that point is for them.

The story centers around a real life event where 3 whales, a male, a female and their calf, are stranded behind a wall of ice near Barrow, Alaska.  This is discovered by news reporter Adam Carlson (Krasinski, at his Jimmy Stewart best).  Carlson, who is nearing the end of a reporting stint covering the local Inuit tribe, sees not only the story potential, but is also concerned with helping them.  This concern is mirrored by many other factions, for many, sometimes complicated, reasons.

The Inuit tribe takes a first step at offering to harvest the animals.  It is a gory, albeit sensible solution that would save many people much trouble.  The uproar caused by well-meaning, but short-sighted Green Peace representative Rachel Kramer (Barrymore) along with press that have gathered in the area push them to reconsider the potential consequences of looking like killers on TV.  Instead, they offer to help.

Another offer comes in the form of rich right-winger McGraw (mailed in by Danson), who is tricked by his well-meaning, and secretly caring wife (Baker) into working towards the positive end as a publicity stunt.  All other conservative forces in the film follow suit.

To be fair, Barrymore’s character is played in a similar, albeit kinder way.  Her radicalism is played off as sincere, but her decisions are often blinded by the fact that she cares too much.  However it gets her there, the potential for good and bad adds depth to her character.

Similarly, Kristen Bell plays a news reporter whose decision to go after the story is clouded at first by ignorance.  She is plucky, though, and has the ability to adapt.  Even if the end of the film lets her character down a bit, it is a neat film that decides to give not one, but two, flawed but resilient female characters.  It helps the story and it kept my girls watching.

The Inuit are given similar respect.  The wisdom is contained in the traditional old man of few words (John Pingayak), but the rest of the tribe is shown as resourceful, intelligent and dedicated to their task, no matter how small.  Pingayak’s performance is a boon for the movie.  His steady voice and calm demeanor guide action the gets results while the liberals and conservatives shriek back and forth.

Nelson is a steady presence as a scientist  who is mostly there to give the effort a hand.  Riggle and LeGros offer some entertaining and earnest moments as entrepreneurs who manage to keep the whales alive with their ingenuity.

Overall, this movie is a positive step.  It provides a decent example of how important it is to put your differences aside once in a while and work together as humans, big things can happen.  As for the veracity of the story, if you substitute Inuit where most of the white non-reporters are, and you give no real clear sign as to whether the whales survived, you have something closer to the truth.  What they have, though, for the most part, is anything but bad.  They even managed to work in Sarah Palin without the slightest hint of bias.

(***1/2 out of *****)

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