Barrymore Flops 'Big' In This Whale Of A Tale
Published: Sunday, February 5, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
Very few movies about whales have made their mark on pop culture history. In fact, only the Free Willy film series has had a remarkable impact. Simply put, whales are incapable of carrying movies, in the way that dogs, cats, or even penguins can. For this reason, in Big Miracle, director Ken Kwapis smartly chooses to focus his movie mostly on the humans involved in a whale rescue, rather than the whales themselves. Unfortunately, in this case, the humans are just as uninteresting as the whales.
The Office's John Krasinski stars as Adam Carlson, a news reporter for a station in Anchorage, Alaska, who is waiting for his big break while reporting on public interest stories. His career has seemingly hit rock bottom when he's reporting on the opening of a Mexican restaurant in Barrow, Alaska, one of the northernmost towns in the world. Set to return to Anchorage, Adam decides to do one last story in Barrow, about snowmobiling. While shooting footage of snowmobilers in action, he catches the spout on a gray whale coming up through a hole in the ice for air. Startled, Adam takes a look and discovers a family of three trapped whales. His report on the story soon becomes national news, and a rescue mission begins.
The person behind the rescue mission is Rachel Kramer (Drew Barrymore), head of Greenpeace. Rachel is determined to save the whales and will stop at nothing to ensure their escape. Along the way, she manages to anger a long list of people, including Alaskan governor Haskell (Stephen Root) and oil company CEO Liam Peterson (Ted Danson).
The plot may sound like your typical cheesy family film, but trust me, it is much worse. Not only does the screenplay suffer from a number of horrible cliches, but also the acting is just terrible. Barrymore takes a page out of her own life and brings crazy to a whole new level as the head of Greenpeace. Instead of portraying a woman passionate about animals, Barrymore comes off as a woman who is mentally unstable and on the edge of a serious emotional breakdown. Really, watching her spiral closer and closer to insanity is the only entertaining aspect of the film.
Kristen Bell is also uniquely horrible in the movie. Her desperate news reporter Jill Jerard is way over the top. I couldn't help but chuckle to myself every time her character attempted to sound empowering and smart, because each time it came off as fake and shrill. Even Krasinski, who has proven his acting chops on The Office, falls flat in his role. Of course, the real problem is that both Bell and Krasinski weren't given much to work with. The biggest flaw of the movie is the screenplay, which is literally sleep-inducing. The dialogue fails to bring any sense of drama or urgency to the film. There's no charm or wit to be found, either. Basically, the screenplay is both uninteresting and uninspiring.
Furthermore, the whales themselves, which were created using a mixture of CGI and animatronics, are unimaginative and fake-looking. Animatronics were used in the scenes where the whales came up to the surface for water. However, instead of being cute, the animatronics were creepy. The CGI, used in scenes when the whales are fully immersed in the ocean, is better, but still comes off as a little cartoonish.
The only things that keeps Big Miracle from being a total failure are its political undertones. The whales represent the Earth and all of nature's beauty. The message, although draped in cliches, is simple: humans are not the only inhabitants of this planet, and it's important that we fight to save the Earth's natural wonders. We do this, not for the benefit of us, but for the benefit of all living creatures. It's an important message, but it's one that deserves to be told in a much better movie than Big Miracle.