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Big Miracle Is Hardly a Whale of a Tale

<i>Big Miracle</i> Is Hardly a Whale of a Tale

DVD Release Date: June 19, 2012
Theatrical Release Date: February 3, 2012
Rating: PG (for language)
Genre: Drama, Family
Run Time: 107 min.
Director: Ken Kwapis
Actors: Drew Barrymore, John Krasinski, John Pingayak, Ahmaogak Sweeney, Andrew Daly, Ted Danson, Vinessa Shaw, Kristen Bell

Perhaps hoping to piggyback off the surprise success of last year’s Dolphin Tale, Big Miracle is also based on a true animal rescue story, namely the devoted efforts to free three whales trapped beneath the ice off the coast of Alaska in 1988.

Trouble is, as utterly heartwarming as the story is, the film’s sheer cheese factor is still impossible to ignore. From the oh-so-obvious title that practically warrants its own spoiler alert, to the cloyingly sentimental soundtrack that tells you exactly how you’re supposed to feel even though you’re more than capable of figuring it out yourself, Big Miracle ultimately would’ve worked far better as a documentary than a feature film. 

Worse yet, the humans involved are as one-dimensional as the requisite comic relief in a sitcom. Not deviating much from the ever-likeable Jim Halpert he plays on TV’s The OfficeJohn Krasinski plays the proverbial everyman journalist Adam Carlson. Hoping to make a big name for himself pronto, he still takes a job in a city where it’s always a slow news day. Conveniently enough, just as Adam was beginning to doubt whether his career would amount to anything, one of the locals, a young boy (Ahmaogak Sweeney in his first film) gives Adam the scoop of a lifetime.

On what’s the eve of their annual migration, a trio of whales is stranded under the Arctic Circle’s rapidly forming ice sheet. Unable to make the nearly four-mile journey to the open sea without running out of air, they’re struggling for survival as they cling to the small hole that’s left in the ice—their only source of oxygen.

But leave it to our intrepid reporter to get the word out! In what’s only the first of many moments where kicking your disbelief to the curb is required for any sort of enjoyment, a veritable herd of journalists descend on the scene only mere moments after Adam files his first story on these whales. Even without the aid of the Internet, the story’s apparently gone viral, and everyone, and I mean everyone, wants to save these whales nicknamed Fred, Wilma and Bamm-Bamm.

Sensing an opportunity for profit, a scuzzy, scheming oil magnate eventually makes his way to Alaska (translation: bad guy), along with Adam’s ex-girlfriend (naturally), an environmental activist (read: good girl) who is practically the only character in Big Miracle who isn’t simply using these creatures’ plight for her own gain. Trouble is, as noble as the effort seems, showcasing a few shades of gray would’ve helped all these characters considerably.

The main problem with Big Miracle is that unlike Dolphin Tale where meaningful themes were explored in a far more authentic fashion, almost everything about Big Miracle simply rings hollow. It’s a great story without the benefit of great dialogue and nuance. Reduced to a level of Hallmark card sentimentality with an unfortunate made-for-TV look and feel to boot, it also suffers from leaden pacing and far too many moments where nothing really happens at all.

When it’s all said and done, Big Miracle wants to be a whale of a tale with its heart in the right place, but like oh-so-many movies these days, the execution leaves more than a little to be desired.


  • Drugs/Alcohol: Social drinking, sometimes to the point of drunkenness.
  • Language/Profanity: Several uses of h-l- and dam-. Bast---, jack--- and son of a bit—are used once. God’s name is exclaimed and misused on several occasions.
  • Sex/Nudity: Kissing. Rachel’s chutzpah is equated to having a “big pair.”
  • Violence:  Several of the whales are injured and shown fighting for the survival. The ice causes several cuts and scrapes to the whales’ delicate flesh.

Christa Banister is a full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. Based in Dallas, Texas, she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blogFor more information, including her upcoming book signings and sample chapters of her novels, check out her Website.