Monday, September 17, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Big Miracle (2012) ***

PG, 107 min.
Director: Ken Kwapis
Writers: Jack Amiel, Michael Begler, Thomas Rose (book “Freeing the Whales”)
Starring: John Krasinski, Drew Barrymore, Ahmoagak Sweeney, John Pingayak, Ted Danson, Kristen Bell, Dermot Mulroney, Vinessa Shaw, Tim Blake Nelson, Kathy Baker, Stephen Root, John Michael Higgins, Andrew Daly, Bruce Altman, James LeGros, Rob Riggle, Shea Whigham, Stefan Kapicic, Mark Ivanir

For me, “Big Miracle” was a big surprise. I have to admit I don’t remember the story of the grey whales trapped in the Alaskan ice from 1988. But then, as a sophomore in high school, I didn’t really pay that much attention to the evening news. I’m very happy to learn of their tale today, however, in sort of a classic style family friendly movie.

Ken Kwapis assembles a large cast of characters to tell his story from the many different points of views of all the different factions of people it took to make the “miracle” of freeing these trapped whales possible. The cast almost resembles something like a classic 1970s disaster flick, with a collection of recognizable stars from film and television and an even larger selection of character actors that you may or may not recognize in bit parts. Two of the main characters are Inupiak Eskimos, and therefore don’t exactly fit into the Hollywood movie star mold, but the performers who play this grandfather and grandson hold their own against names like Drew Barrymore, Ted Danson, John Krasinski, Kristen Bell and Dermot Mulroney.

Unlike those 70s disaster flicks, this is pretty light stuff. The filmmakers do a good job of exploring every character’s motivations for getting involved in such a humanitarian endeavor. From environmentalist to oil tycoon, everybody has their own reasons for attaching themselves to this project, which was brought to national attention by a small time news producer. I found Danson’s oilman an interesting contrast of corporate America of 20 years ago as opposed to today. The political maneuvering by the Reagan administration to give Bush number one a boost headed toward the White House was interesting as well. I can’t believe that today’s presidential candidates would be able to see the positives of involving themselves in such an incident. More likely, they would use the development of three whales trapped in the ice to further divide our troubled nation on issues that don’t really matter on the ballot.

Perhaps that’s where the appeal of this nice movie lies. It comes from a time when American’s weren’t divided by political irrationality. It would be easy to call it a simpler time, but that’s not really true. This movie highlights the complexities of coordinating something that seems simple enough. But, it was a time of less negativity. We could all use less of that. 

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