February 07, 2012
Family Film Blogging: Big Miracle
Posted by Christine Hurt

I loved Big Miracle!  OK, I stole the ending, but I wanted to get that out of the way.  The boys and I went to see Big Miracle on Friday, and I have to say I'm a big fan.  The four year-old got a little fidgety (OK, so he kept climbing over the railing for the stadium seating), but he did remind me that he did not leave early like We Bought a Zoo.  The ten year-old was pretty into it, and I was really into it.

The movie is based on a true story, Operation Breakthrough, that apparently was a media sensation when I was in college, but I don't remember it at all.  Of course, the fall of 1988 was my second year in college, and I missed a lot of current events during that time.  So, the movie is set during the Bush v. Dukakis presidential campaign and tries to be a "period piece."  (I still don't understand why Drew Barrymore's hair is an ombre mess with 6 inches of highlights grown out.  Is there a message that in the 80s people didn't pay attention to their hair color maintenance?  Perhaps working for Greenpeace, her character is so passionate about her causes that she has let her hair go?  That's sort of 70s, not 80s.)  The story is that in Barrow, AK, three whales are trapped under the ice and cannot get to the ocean where they are supposed to swim to Baja, CA for the winter.  Without human intervention, the whales will die.  Enter reporter Adam (John Krasinski), who would love to move to "the lower 48," and the whales begin to get national attention.  Various groups decide how much attention to turn to the whales, and for what purposes.

The movie could be a centerpiece of a government class, with student groups representing the different special interests with their agendas:  Greenpeace, an Alaskan oil company CEO, President Reagan, the Inuits, the National Guard, the media, the local business owners, and even the Soviets.  What I liked about the movie was that none of these folks seemed one-dimensional, and all of them were portrayed as flawed to various extents.  No one has an entirely pure motive, even the heroes.

The end, of course, is happy.  (There is a nonhuman death, for the parents out there.)  I teared up a little.  Why?  Because, as the movie tells us, everybody loves whales.  We seem to empathize with whales and project our hopes and fears onto them.  But, if you're coming to the movie because you love movies and want to see a lot of whale footage, be prepared.  There's not much.  (It's a $40 million movie, not a $100 million movie.)  Most of the whale scenes are whales sticking their snouts out of a hole in the ice, with only a couple of good underwater scenes.

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