In Alaska, 1988, a meeting announcing the auction results of the rights to drill for oil in the region was disrupted by a Greenpeace activist, Rachel Kramer (Drew Barrymore), who produced a megaphone and began decrying the winner, corporate boss J.W. McGraw (Ted Danson), for the damage his practises were doing to the environment. She was quickly escorted from the building, and meanwhile her ex-boyfriend Adam Carlson (John Krasinski) was reporting for local television on human interest stories, little knowing he would soon be covering something from the animal kingdom...
Loosely based on real events you may or may not recall, Big Miracle was a simple enough feelgood yarn from British company Working Title, but with more depth than the basic treehugging premise might have indicated, if you could hug a tree on the Alaskan ice. It was an inspirational narrative in that it showed people from all walks of life assembling to do some good for something which would otherwise have failed without their help, in this case a family of three whales which Adam discovers while out filming otherwise inconsequential footage. The creatures are stuck with only one hole in the ice to breathe through, and will expire if they cannot make their way to the open sea.
Already the baby whale is looking ill, thus it's a race against time as the decreasing temperatures are closing up the hole, and it just so happens this captures the imagination of the nation, eventually the world, who are emotionally invested in keeping these animals alive merely by watching them on their television news every night. You could observe writers Jack Amiel and Michael Begler had too much on their plate, as the talking points their script touched on were varied to the extent that most had to be dropped by necessity of keeping the plot moving, so that by the end it was only the saving of the whales theme which had been sustained.
Well, that and the romantic angle, this was Working Title after all and they seemed intent on making a heartfelt relationship form in just about every movie they made, so Big Miracle was not without its rather tired clichés. As you could guess from the first five minutes, it was that connection between Rachel and Adam which took up most of that, with a love rival for him in up and coming reporter from Los Angeles Jill Gerard (Kristen Bell, not Gil Gerard which would have been interesting) who is selfishly looking after her career but nevertheless makes an interesting observation that thousands die in too many wars around the globe that nobody outside of their countries care about because they're not on TV.
Put three helpless animals on the nightly broadcast, on the other hand, and the public are up in arms and demanding something should be done, with the reasoning the film finds being we feel this is something we can fix, whereas the huge problems of the world we cannot. Not everyone is of that opinion, and the overearnest Rachel is one of those people who throws herself into the bigger issues of the planet, dedicated to preserving the environment which is something every schoolchild can understand, until reality changes their minds. That's the case with most of them, and bravely Rachel's uncompromising stance is not something played for sympathy straight away, she has to win us over when we eventually perceive her sincerity in doing the right thing is something we should all share. That didn't prevent a note of cynicism as everyone involved cottons on to how well this will go for their public image, be they in politics, business or media. So this could be clear-eyed when it wanted to be, while remaining the traditional triumph against the odds. Music by Cliff Eidelman.