A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Big Miracle is an animal-rescue adventure that was inspired by a true story from the 1980s. Although the movie has positive messages about family, friendship, nature, and more, there's one very disturbing death that may cause little ones to cry out of sadness. Language includes a few exclamations like "damn," "holy crap," "hell," and "bastards," and mild flirting includes one kiss between a grown-up couple. Because this is a "period" drama, there are some political discussions about Reagan's administration versus the Greenpeace agenda. Kids will also learn about Inuit tribe culture, the difference between tribal and commercial whaling, and about whales and their migratory patterns.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
It's 1988, and Anchorage news reporter Adam Carlson (John Krasinski) is in the tiny town of Barrow, Alaska, when he unintentionally discovers a family of three gray whales trapped in the icy waters off shore. Realizing that this could be a huge story that gets him a job in the Lower 48, Adam sends a piece that gets picked up by the national press, attracting the attention of everyone from his ex-girlfriend/Greenpeace activist, Rachel (Drew Barrymore), to Tom Brokaw and a young White House staffer in President Ronald Reagan's administration. The whales' fate quickly becomes a tug-of-war between the environmentalists and the local Inuit tribe, which wants to harvest the whales. When the tribe decides to help the cause, Greenpeace and Big Oil -- and even the Soviets -- must band together to save the whales.
Is it any good?
Based on a mostly forgotten news story from the late '80s, this is the kind of entertaining, historical, even educational family-friendly film that will appeal to parents and older kids alike. There are no commercial tie-ins or CGI-hybrid talking animals, and all of the actors are charming -- especially Barrymore and Krasinski, but also Ted Danson as a rich oilman, Dermot Mulroney as a focused National Guard officer, and Kristen Bell as an ambitious Los Angeles reporter covering the story up north.
One of the best aspects of the movie is that despite being firmly rooted in the '80s (a fact that's reinforced by glimpses of real news spots about the whales and references to Walkmans and Def Leppard), there isn't an oppressive amount of '80s nostalgia included in the story. And although various political perspectives are shared, everyone wins as the groups come together for the sake of the whales. A downside is that the pacing feels off at times (brisk in some parts, dragging in others), and the movie may be a tad too "grown up" for younger kids. Otherwise, it's a decent and thought-provoking family pick.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why save-the-animal movies are so popular. Do you prefer movies with animals that talk or realistic depictions like the whales in Big Miracle?
What do you think the filmmakers wanted audiences to take away from the story? Were there political messages in the movie?
Does seeing Big Miracle make you want to learn more about the real story that inspired it? Parents, talk to your kids what you were up to in the late '80s and whether you remember this trapped-whales news story.
- In theaters: February 3, 2012
- On DVD or streaming: June 19, 2012
- Cast: Drew Barrymore, John Krasinski, Kristen Bell
- Director: Ken Kwapis
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Ocean Creatures, Wild Animals
- Run time: 107 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: language
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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