The email mentioned whales and with that you gave up your hitherto apathetic stance to pimping your blog out for material gain and accepted the offer of taking the Star along to an advance screening of the film Big Miracle in return for a review. The Star regards whales as honorary sharks and remains violently interested in all things marine, so despite the fact that you had vague misgivings owing to the fact that these were whales in peril, and also despite the fact that when the blurb mentioned ‘rival superpowers’ you just knew there was going to be a Russian swigging vodka in it somewhere, you decided that it was too good an opportunity to pass up and off you both trotted.
Plus, it has Drew Barrymore in it. You like Drew Barrymore.
“Will there be sharks?” said the Star on the way to the ’boutique-style’ hotel where they hold such events. “Fish? Penguins? Seahorses? Sharks? Jellyfish? Sharks? Fish? Sharks? Sharks?” and because you hadn’t actually bothered to read much beyond ‘whales’ ‘Greenpeace’ ‘Drew Barrymore’ and, yes, ‘rival superpowers’ you were confident when you said, “Oh, I should think so.”
There weren’t any sharks. Or fish or penguins or seahorses or jellyfish or even a vast amount of screen time for the actual whales either, although the one sequence of the whales swimming around under water was impressive enough to get rapturous gasps out of the Star. So if, like you, anyone is thinking of taking a budding marine biologist along to Big Miracle and then sitting back and letting the wildlife work its magic on their hyperactive toddler it is best that you burst that bubble right away.
For Big Miracle is a film not about the three whales imprisoned in the Point Barrow Alaskan ice of the frozen north sometime back in the 80s when Ronald Regan was in power that people who actually read the summary more carefully than you might think it is.
No, it is a film about the disparate group of people who come together to save them, the efforts they go to and the trials, tribulations, and incidents of getting their tongue stuck to various metal surfaces and being fleeced by a young Anouki boy they have in doing so.
It is, in fact, an ensemble rescue-adventure movie.
This is not at all a bad thing. In your opinion. Apollo 13 is one of your favourite movies for the very reason that it is the triumph of a team of engineers over adversity, and given the choice between saving Tom Hanks or three whales from certain death, you know which you’d choose. Watching all the pieces slowly and inexorably fall into place on the whales’ behalf was quite diverting.
Plus, the people involved are all quite engaging. Flawed, certainly, but generally the film was lacking in the kind of negativity that comes from being forced to watch unpleasant people being unpleasant at length. The major baddy is the weather and nearly everyone is pretty focused on trying to beat her.
You got a couple of chuckles out of it. This always pleases you.
And there may not have been much in the way of further animal action to support the three leading mammals, but there was some quite nifty heavy machinery for the Star to drool over.
The problem is that there was quite a lot of back story to fit in, as well as attempts to tackle the themes of ethics in journalism, the tension between environmental protection and a native people’s traditional way of life, Cold War politics, coming of age, the generation gap, the evils of the oil industry, serving in the armed forces and luuuurve. Towards the middle of the film you started to feel as though huge swathes of the original script had been ruthlessly excised in order to bring the film in in anything like a reasonable length. In one instance, for example, an entire romance sweeps by in the space of one phone call. It’s rather a shame. You would have almost sat through the seventeen hour version.
Which brings us to the other problem. Being a film about humans and human motivations, it involves quite long periods of talking, talking, talking at times, so it does have to be said that in the second third of the film the Star did wander off to look for more of the sweeties kindly provided by the organisers for a while. Much business with his whale-shaped balloon and trying to chat to the people next to and behind us.
He resisted your suggestion that you leave altogether, however, and when the rescue efforts ratcheted up towards the final push, he was duly enthralled again, and remained so until the end. It helped the whales come back into focus then too.
A final word of warning. The ending of the film is not quite what might be expected from a heartwarming family-friendly movie about saving cute animals. Possibly the filmmakers were constrained by it being based on a real life event.
That said, this plot twist went right over the Star’s head and he left well content with his experience overall. He was certainly able to go home and give a fair summary of the main points of the plot to his Papa and pronounce it good quite decidedly. Really, that’s everything you can ask of a film experience with a toddler.
As for you, you like to cry in movies. You pronounce it good too.
Although the Russians? Did neck the vodka.