Film Review: 'Big Miracle' is a good family movie

By Shawn O'Neill

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, Feb. 3 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

“Family entertainment.”

What do you expect when you hear those words to describe a movie? Maybe your mind starts thinking about animated features, a silly buddy film with animals or some toy manufacturer’s idea of a movie that’s really an infomercial.

What may not come to mind is the new film “Big Miracle,” but it should.

Adam Carlson (John Krasinski) is a reporter for an Anchorage TV station. He has been sent to Barrow, the northern-most city in Alaska, to file stories that end up as filler in the Anchorage newscasts.

This is not Adams' preferred post. He is always looking at getting to a larger market.

While out filming a story about a snowmobile daredevil (the guy does donuts on his snowmobile), Adam notices something in the distance and discovers three whales that keep coming up for air through the ice just off the coast. It is determined the whales are a family and are given the names Fred, Wilma and Bamm-Bamm. The younger whale is a boy, so “Pebbles” wouldn’t work.

The whales are in trouble. There is no other place they can surface to get air, and the edge of the ice is five miles away. Also, the small hole the whales are sharing is closing quickly, if they do not get help soon, the whales will die.

Adam does a story on the whales, and it ends up going national. His former girlfriend, Rachel Kramer (Drew Barrymore), works for Greenpeace. She sees the story and immediately heads for Barrow. Unfortunately, so does almost every member of the press from around the world.

The entire town becomes focused on the whales and what should be done. The big question, though, is should the native Inupiat tribe harvest them? The tribal council decides they should help the whales, and so the rescue begins.

It isn’t too long though before things become political, since it's an election year and the story is getting so much attention.

This is good family entertainment. Is it groundbreaking? No. Is it an over-the-top, sickeningly sweet story? No. It is simply an entertaining film that you can take the whole family to see.

The only thing to possibly worry about is the theme of dealing with a death. There is a small amount of language but nothing else — no nudity, no blood and no violence. There is some verbal bashing that takes place, but things are worked out.

One thing that was a little strange was how Rachel Kramer didn't seem to be affected by the events. Her character stayed the same throughout, while the other characters were all changed in some way.

It's also a little strange that the filmmakers have not been playing up the fact that "Big Miracle" has such a strong cast. It appears that instead of concentrating on dollars, this film is concentrating on its story. That is a breath of fresh air.

As for family entertainment, this is one film you can watch with the kids and you won’t feel silly about the story. One other plus: Your kids won’t be asking for the action figure either.

Shawn O'Neill is the Family Man Movie Reviewer on BYU Radio. His reviews can be heard on BYURadio.org and on SiriusXM Channel 143.

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