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Movie review: 'Big Miracle'

Posted 3:21pm on Thursday, Feb. 02, 2012

PG (mild language); 104 min.

It was something of a "big miracle," the way the plight of a family of gray whales, stranded under the Alaska ice, captivated the country and forced oilmen and environmentalists, natives and Cold War foes to team up back in the waning days of the Reagan administration.

And it's no small miracle that the story of that nearly forgotten moment makes for a delightful family movie. Political cynicism, media opportunism, dogmatic native "tradition," corporate greed and environmentalist stubbornness are each, in turn, dashed against this sunny Ken Kwapis ( License to Wed) confection.

John Krasinski plays the very definition of small-time TV reporter, whose "Adam Around Alaska" stories aren't the ticket to the big time he wants. Then he stumbles across three whales -- parents and a baby -- circling near an air hole in the ice outside of Barrow, Alaska. They're miles from open ocean, too far to hold their breath.

And next thing you know, every network is on the story. Alaskan Greenpeace activist Rachel (Drew Barrymore) is shrieking, "These whales are in trouble!" The tribal whaling council has to be shown how bad "harvesting" the whales will look to the world. Mr. Big Oilman (Ted Danson) has to be conned into seeing the PR value in letting "some hippies use my [icebreaker] barge to save some whales."

It's a slight film of simple, obvious charms.

I love the way the would-be villains are given a human side and the supposedly righteous ones -- the natives and environmentalists -- have unpleasant touches. Every character needs to learn to listen to everybody else.

Yeah, there are plenty of Hollywood touches. But it's amazing how much of this story is true. Stay through the closing credits (clips of the real people and real timeline) for proof.

-- Roger Moore,

McClatchy Tribune News Service

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