Big Miracle: "Everybody Loves Whales"

Director: Ken Kwapis
Writer:    Jack Amiel
               Michael Begler
Starring: Drew Barrymore
               John Krasinski
               Kristen Bell
               Vinessa Shaw
               Ted Danson
               Stephen Root
               Dermot Mulroney
               Tim Blake Nelson
Rating:    ***

Home Release: Out Now 

It has been far too long since Drew Barrymore was last on the big screen, and I for one have missed her. She has returned in a touching family drama, based on true events, that focuses on a group of activists, big-wig oil tycoons and Eskimos joining together to help free a family of 3 whales trapped beneath the Alaskan ice. The whales are affectionately named Wilma, Fred and Bam-Bam, and they will warm your heats just like they warm those on screen.

Drew plays the passionate and slightly neurotic Greenpeace activist Rachel Kramer who, in 1988, actually rushed to secure the appropriate aid for the giant, tender and scared mammals. It isn't that dissimilar to Barrymore's previous roles, so she plays it perfectly; but the stand out performance comes from John Krasinski. He plays Adam, a gentile and kind local news reporter, and Rachel's ex-boyfriend. He puts up with a lot during the film; handling behind-the-scenes bickering, holding in his real emotions and putting up with Rachel's overly caring behaviour.

John Krasinski & Drew Barrymore
Of course with characters like this, in a situation such as theirs, they soon begin to develop those old feelings for one another again; but with an intense rescue mission still powering ahead, these emotions don't get enough of a chance to fully show themselves - which is a real shame. What is vastly more engaging to watch is the gripping way the media coverage picks up speed, drawing more and more help and attention from the unlikeliest of people, even the Soviet Union. It turns out that President Reagan's advisers think that getting 'the Reds' involved would help with the countries struggling relationship, but all it reveals is the lengths people will got to for a bit of good press.

One of the more selfish characters is a particularly greasy oil tycoon, played by Danson, who supplies helpful hardware in the hopes he will be granted drilling rights on the local land. Even a pair of unlikely de-icer salespeople try their hardest to cash in on the situation. Kristen Bell also plays a rather self-serving sort of woman, despite the fact her character starts off as a likable character fighting for equal rights in her workplace. She too is a news reporter, but she would rather film her way through the tragedy than help save the helpless creatures.

Though it would appear that Rachel is the driving force throughout the film, it is Adam who is forced to face up to some of the bigger dilemmas. He has to choose between love, a blossoming career, and smoothing over cracks in the rescue team when Rachel ruffles a few too many feathers.

Kristen Bell
Barrymore injects all the heart and soul she possibly can into Rachel, and manages to create a fairly multi-layered character - despite some stilted writing. Things like her dispute with the Inuits (who want to hunt the whales), and the friction that creates are too quickly brushed aside by the script and Ken Kwapis' direction. More backstory to hers and Adam's relationship wouldn't have hurt either, as that extra bit of insight into the characters would've been really helpful. It is things like their real lack of conflict, and the uninteresting and almost non-existent character development that let the film down which is really unfortunate.

Of course there is plenty of gripping drama and emotion to keep the audiences entertained; and trust me, you will be. I just wish that they'd put in as much effort into the humans character development, as they did with the whales story . Despite those few faults, Big Miracle is a terrific family drama that'll make you laugh, cry and bring your family together; all from the comfort of your couch.

Big Miracle - Trailer