"Children are bound to connect with it, even if risking the loss of attention of the bored and uninterested parents..."
Anyone else remember Dunston Checks In? You know, the story about the rogue orangutan let loose in a luxury hotel? Well director of the said feature Ken Kwapis seems determined to emulate upon such a lacklustre children's film with his latest picture Big Miracle.
Based on a true story, Big Miracle tells the tale of a nationwide operation to save the lives of a family of three grey whales, trapped by the formation of ice in the town of Barrow, Alaska.
News reporter Adam Carlson (John Krasinski) unearths the story, accidentally capturing footage of the troubled family when shooting a news report. Unexpectedly, Adam's story becomes nationwide content, as the American public take to the tale of the trapped mammals. A variety of news stations send a crew over to the freezing cold conditions to cover the story, but none more passionate than Greenpeace activist Rachel Kramer (Drew Barrymore).
Rachel, a former partner of Adam's, is determined to secure the safety of the whales - affectionately named Fred, Wilma and Bamm-Bamm - bringing in help from the White House, and despite much deliberation, oil tycoon J.W. McGraw (Ted Danson), as a series of locals, reporters and even soldiers attempt to free the whales from the rapidly forming ice, and bring hope to the anticipant public.
Without wanting to sound too insensitive - the supposed 'incredible true story' that Big Miracle is based on, certainly wears a little thin. When hearing of a nationwide mission to save innocent whales, initially I had envisaged a tale of hundreds, or even thousands of the appreciated creatures being steered to safety. It therefore comes as somewhat of a disappointment to see the entire story based around the saving of just three whales.
However, in a sense that is the beauty of the film, how a huge nation such as America can become engulfed in what is essentially a quite trivial story, albeit disconcerting. Yet the content certainly suffers due to the insignificance of the matter, despite portraying a quite touching tale of how emotionally obsessed and determined the public can be.
As a viewer you of course wish (and anticipate) the safety of the whales, but the annoyance of Rachel almost makes you want her to be on the losing side. Nothing against Barrymore, but her character is stubborn and irritating, and every scene she appears in comes with the same fearful yet guilty trepidation that occurs when you spot a charity worker approach you in the street on your walk home from work. Krasinski, however, counteracts the character of Rachel with a degree of likeability, although the inclusion of his friend and random local child Nathan (Ahmaogak Sweeney) seems somewhat unnecessary.
Big Miracle just seems to be too reminiscent of past children's films, from 15 to 20 years ago. Kwapis' production feels too stuck in the past, whereas contemporary films aimed at a younger audience have certainly evolved recently, with the likes of Hugo and Pixar productions such as Up and Wall-E - telling riveting tales equally as affecting to adults as they are for children, in a genre that is continuously being taken more seriously - as the 11 Oscar nominations for Hugo will testify. It therefore seems somewhat obsolete to simply put a suffering animal in a kid's film nowadays and hope it will suffice. Big Miracle just feels far too similar to the likes of Free Willy and Andre - films we'd quite like to forget.
However, it is difficult to criticise the feature too heavily, as anyone viewing knows exactly what they are letting themselves in for. It is as it appears; a feel-good and moving children’s story, no more, no less. Children are bound to connect with it, which in all fairness is the filmmaker's intention, even if risking the loss of attention of the bored and uninterested parents.
Running in stiff competition with The Muppets - released on the same day, there really is only one film to take your kids to this month, and if contemplating seeing either without children, then it's certainly a no-brainer. Fair play to Kwapis for padding Big Miracle out into a feature-length film, but the only miracle that occurred in this instance, was that I managed to stay awake.