New Movie Rescues Whales in Alaska

Wednesday Matinee

Destination:  Anchorage, Barrow, and Fort Richardson, Alaska

Movie Poster for Big MiracleMovie: Big Miracle (NEW 2012), Directed by Ken Kwapis

Review by Jane Boursaw

Reel Rating*: 4 out of 5 Reels

There’s something really compelling about whales. Is it their size and power? The fact that they swim in the ocean underneath our tiny boats? Or the fact that even though they could wipe out a small town with one swipe of a flipper, maybe they’re not so different from us after all.

Whatever the reason, any time a whale pops up in a movie, I’m so there. In Big Miracle, we get not one, but three whales, along with the incredibly adorable Drew Barrymore and John Krasinski. It’s almost too much cuteness for one movie, but there you have it.


Co-stars of Big Miracle
John Krasinki and Drew Barrymore

Based on the book by Thomas Rose, Big Miracle tells the real-life story that happened back in 1988. John Krasinski plays Adam Carlson, a news reporter covering stories in the tiny town of Barrow, Alaska. When he inadvertently discovers a family of three gray whales trapped in the icy waters off shore, he realizes this could be the big story that gets him out of the sticks and into a cushy job in the Lower 48.

Adam’s story gets picked up by the national press, attracting the attention of everyone from Tom Brokaw to a White House staffer in Pres. Reagan’s administration to ex-girlfriend Rachel Kramer, a Greenpeace activist who immediately flies to Barrow to help organize efforts to get the whales back to open sea.

Rescuing the whales in Big Miracle
Rescuing the whales in Big Miracle

It also attracts the attention of oil baron J.W. McGraw (Ted Danson), who sees the situation as a way to bring environmentalists onboard with his Arctic oil-drilling efforts, and Jill Jerard (Kristen Bell), an ambitious Los Angeles reporter looking for a scoop.

There’s no doubt this movie has a lot going on; stories focused on saving the whales; oil-drilling in the Arctic; a culture clash with the whale-harvesting Inuit tribes; push-pull between a National Guard officer (Dermot Mulroney) and Pres. Reagan; and the fact that the U.S. government asks the Soviet Union for help in freeing the whales. By the way, did Pres. Reagan actually call Mikhail Gorbachev “Gorby”? No idea, but I guess the scene where he calls him on the phone is played for laughs.

Somehow, though, it all works, probably because this story really happened back in 1988, and we see evidence of that when archival footage plays as the end credits roll. Plus, if you were around in the 1980s, you’ll get a kick out of the shout-outs to Walkmans, Def Leppard, big hair and shoulder pads. It was also filmed on location in Anchorage, Barrow, and Fort Richardson, Alaska.

Most of all, though, Big Miracle is an entertaining, educational family movie that both kids and adults will like – especially if you have a thing for whales and movies shot in snowy locations.



One Reel – Even the Force can’t save it.

Two Reels – Coulda been a contender

Three Reels – Something to talk about.

Four Reels – You want the truth? Great flick!

Five Reels – Wow! The stuff dreams are made of.

Jane BoursawJane Boursaw is a family entertainment writer specializing in movies and TV. She contributes monthly articles about movies at Wednesday Matinee at A Traveler’s Library. Visit her at ReelLifeWithJane; follow her on Twitter; become a friend on Facebook; email

Disclaimers: There is a link to Amazon in this post to the book the movie is based on. Reel Life With Jane is an affiliate, and therefore if you use that convenient link and buy anything at all while you are there, Reel Life will earn a few cents. Thanks for supporting our work! Photos are provided by Universal Pictures.

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5 thoughts on “New Movie Rescues Whales in Alaska

  1. It really is cute – possibly too cute, though there’s a bit of darkness when the whales don’t thrive as well as they could, so it’s not *quite a happily ever after ending. But sometimes I need a movie that’s just straightforward that I don’t have to think too much about. This one fits the bill.

  2. I’ve been seeing posters for this movie all over as I’ve been on the road myself. great to have your opinion on it, Jane. sounds like a movie filled with hope and courage, always good things. I’ll need to see this.

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