This quest to find a mythical one-of-a-kind whale aboard the good ship Truth has all the elements of an epic, kid-friendly adventure, but it only partially delivers. The beauty and mystery of large marine life are easy ins when it comes to connecting kids to nature, and some of the images in The Loneliest Whale are phenomenal -- including showing a whale's viewpoint thanks to the equivalent of a GoPro attached to its head. Gorgeous images of a whales moving and swimming in the water and explanations of how whales hear and communicate through oceans are fascinating.
The problem is that, since this is real life, rather than a scripted piece of CGI filmmaking, the movie lacks some of the cinematic qualities necessary to keep kids fully engaged. Director Joshua Zeman establishes an impossible premise: Let's find a whale that hasn't been seen or heard from in more than a decade and, by the way, might not even exist. It feels like looking for Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster, with only a few clues, tips and theories. But without any real threats (like a villain or storms), notable obstacles other than the noise of a nearby cargo vessel, or big/funny personalities to help push the story along, the film beaches. It's stuck on the shore, weighed down by its sweet earnestness. Zeman tries to find creative ways to occupy viewers' minds through an explanation of the horrors of the whaling industry, showing how and why the Save the Whales campaign succeeded in capturing the zeitgeist. Unlike those searching for Nessie or Sasquatch, Zeman at least gets some answers. But to find resolution, stay through the first round of credits -- the mic drop occurs, oddly, after many people may have left the theater.