x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Big Miracle: you find you care, despite the Hollywood schmalz

This most Hollywood of dramas revels in piling on the most saccharine of clichés, but there's a joyous quality to it that gets you involved.

Big Miracle

Director: Ken Kwapis

Starring: John Krasinski, Drew Barrymore

Very loosely based on a true story, Big Miracle is a family drama surrounding three whales that become trapped north of the arctic circle. With 1980's society indifferent to their fate, a small-town news reporter (Krasinski), a Greenpeace volunteer (Barrymore) and an Alaskan boy attempt to draw attention to the situation, inducing rival superpowers to join forces to help. This most Hollywood of dramas revels in piling up the most saccharine of clichés. However, the modern David and Goliath twist to the story - small campaigners vs big politicians - slowly becomes a battle that you are interested in seeing through to the end, if only to find out whether the predictably adorable whales survive. It's a trick that has worked in countless American favourites before (Free Willy being the obvious example), and to some extent still works in this story. Krasinski and Barrymore are reliable if slightly flat leads, but the po-faced sincerity in their performances is backed up by classy support: namely Stephen Root as a politician shamed into action by the media coverage of the whales' plight, and the always-wonderful Ted Danson as an oil executive. Both are used sparingly, but add to an adventure that, by about an hour in, should have you emotionally invested. As an accurate portrayal of real events or as a textured drama, Big Miracle fails spectacularly. However, despite the broadly drawn characters and occasionally cynical emotional moments, there is a joyous quality to the drama that gets you involved and by the film's close has you willing them to succeed. There are more subtle movies out there, but few more uplifting.

* James Luxford

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