Friday, October 5, 2012

Review: Big Miracle

When people sit down to watch an action movie, they tend to have a certain set of expectations – fighting, chase scenes, pretty women, and gunplay.   Likewise, those who go the romantic comedy route probably expect to see weeping and/or laughter inducing elements involving Katherine Heigl, Dermott Mulroney, or a combination of the two.  And when it comes to movies like Big Miracle, the viewer can expect one thing and one thing only – a warm and fuzzy feel good ending.  No matter how the plot unfolds or how ominous the musical score may turn, by credits end the emotional equivalent of hot chocolate on a cold winter’s day will be experienced by all.  Telegraphed as its ending may be, Big Miracle does not fail to deliver in this regard.

Based on Operation Breakthrough as described by Tom Rose in his novel, Freeing the Whales, Big Miracle chronicles an international effort to free three whales who are trapped by frozen ice in and around the Northern Alaskan shore.  The movie tracks the media’s coverage of the endeavor, the influence of Greenpeace, various political and economic machinations, and the role of the indigenous population, yet somehow manages to keep the plot light and fluffy in a way that would make even the execs at ABC Family feel proud. 

To me, the biggest miracle (pun totally intended) about this movie is that not only did it get greenlighted but also that it received a theatrical release.  It’s not that there is anything egregiously bad about this movie, but more that there is nothing especially good about it.  Despite the presence of some recognizable names, the acting and production value seem more suited for a Lifetime Network movie, which makes a lot of sense when you realize the bulk of director Ken Kwapis’ work is in television.  The way the shots are framed lacks the vision and majesty one expects from the big screen treatment.

The cast is comprised of a fairly long ensemble featuring a plethora of bit players circling around the action, which is primarily driven by John Krasinski’s Adam and Drew Barrymore’s Rachel.  Krasinski has in the past failed to successfully make the leap to the big screen (Leatherheads) and nothing happens in this movie to alter his track record.  Drab and understated, his performance as an aspiring television reporter lacks the gusto to be the focal point of this film.  As for Barrymore, one could easily get the impression that she is trying to be unlikable as acting forlorn and whiney is no way to win over an audience.  Collectively, the chemistry that Krasinski and Barrymore share is dreadful and make some key plot elements feel forced.

The supporting cast does not fare much better.  Everyone from Dermott Mulroney to Kristen BellTed Danson, and Vinessa Shaw all seem to be sleep walking through this film delivering their lines with little-to-no conviction.  The only time the faintest hint of a pulse registers from anyone in the cast is when lines are unintentionally spoken with tongues firmly planted in cheek, leaving one to question whether the actors cast in this movie  actually want to appear in it. 

So what you have in Big Miracle is a movie of made-for-telelvision quality featuring a cast that for the most part is mailing it in.  Oh, and by the way, the plot is about three trapped whales in the arctic; which with all due respect to the fine people at Greenpeace is not the most commercially viable premise.  It is a one trick pony of a film that is lazily put together and ultimately relies on its heart warming climax to make you forget everything that is wrong with the entire production.  I wouldn't go so far as to say it is a crime against cinematography or that it is abusive to the senses, but I would suggest you take a pass on this one.  There’s just not much of anything to latch onto in this film.

Standout Performance: None.


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