MOVIE: Big Miracle (2012)

bigmiracleA few weeks ago, I was stuck at home sick for a couple of days.  Lying around on the couch feeling crappy, I couldn’t find anything on Amazon Prime or Netflix I wanted to watch (rawr!), and I was getting more and more cranky and annoyed as the morning progressed (“rawr!” is often my state of mine when I’m home sick — I lack patience for illness).

We had recently signed up for HBO, so in a last ditch attempt to find something with which to occupy myself (OCCUPY MEG STREET!), I activated their HBO Go app on our Smart TV and started flipping through the options.

While poking around in there, I came across the movie Big Miracle, a “family” movie starring Drew Barrymore and John Krasinski. The description said it based on a true story about a pod of gray whales that got trapped in the ice outside Barrow, Alaska in the late 1980s.

I love both Drew and John (not to mention Rob Riggle, Tim Blake Nelson, Kristen Bell, and Ted Danson, who are also all in this film), I’ve always liked stories about whales, AND I’ve always been utterly fascinated by Barrow, Alaska (it’s weird, I know, especially considering how much I hate being cold).  I’ve always wanted to go there — I’m drawn to it for some reason I can’t even begin to explain.  I’ll watch anything set there — from cheesy stuff like 30 Days of Night to the thought-provoking indie film On the Ice (highly recommended, by the way).

In other words, this movie sounded like it was exactly what I needed.  FIRED UP! FEELS GOOD!  Pass me some juice; let’s do this thing!

I’m pleased to report I ended up finding this movie exactly as entertaining as I’d hoped it would be, and I don’t think it’s because I’d hit rock-bottom-boredom right before I turned it on (though, that’s certainly possible).

The screenplay is based on the non-fiction book Freeing the Whales by Tom Rose and is about what became known as “Operation Breakthrough” (OB).  In October 1988, an Inupiaq hunter in Barrow came across a mid-sized hole in the iced-over Beaufort Sea where three whales (two adults and a baby) were trapped.  Because whales have to breathe air, they couldn’t leave the area — the ice had frozen over before they had gotten out to open sea and they wouldn’t be able to hold their breaths long enough to get from the hole they were stuck in all the way out.

The hunter immediately reported the pod, and soon reporters and activists were flying in from all over.  As each attempt to get the whales out fails, the group of residents and outsiders start coming together to pool their ideas and try to find a solution, learning an  important lesson about letting bygones be bygones for the sake of the greater good (for example, the corporate CEO has to learn to work with the Greenpeace lady — two people not typically palling around a lot in real life).  Also, there is a sweet little romantic subplot, which is always nice.

How they end up freeing the whales is pretty amazing, and though the movie ends on a more optimistic note than the “real” story did, that’s what I want in a movie when I’m sick anyway — I want optimism, goddamn it! — so that was fine by me.

All in all, this is a really sweet, good-natured movie that would be extremely appealing to kids and adults alike.  Definitely one to rent on family movie night, I would say.  Recommended!

[Netflix it | Amazon Buy/Rent]

Genre:  Kids, Drama
Cast: Drew Barrymore, John Krasinski, Kristen Bell, Vinessa Shaw, Stephen Root, Ted Danson, Dermot Mulroney, Rob Riggle, Michael Gaston, Tim Blake Nelson

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