Big Miracle

February 3, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Drew Barrymore, John Krasinski, Ted Danson
Directed by: Ken Kwapis (“The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”)
Written by: Jack Amiel (“The Prince and Me”) and Michael Begler (“The Prince and Me”)

Not counting “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home,” movies about whales are usually aimed squarely at kids, teeming with mystical mumbo-jumbo about the intelligence of the giant creatures and their special connection with children and the close-minded adults who are too caught up in, oh, I don’t know, providing for their families to actually appreciate the marine mammals. In most cases, appreciation usually comes right before the credits roll. Throw in some big-time movie stars slumming in a movie their kids can watch and a goofy animal friend, like a dog that covers its eyes when something goes wrong or a seal that barks comically at the grumpy old man threatening to shut down the amusement park/aquarium/whatever, and you’ve got yourself a movie any third grader will love. Thankfully, “Big Miracle” avoids this formula.

“Big Miracle” is based on the true story of three gray whales trapped five miles from the open ocean underneath a sheet of Arctic ice and the international effort that arose to save them. Set fairly unconvincingly in 1988, the story opens with   reporter Adam Carlson (John Krasinski) covering the local color in Point Barrow, Alaska. While out documenting a local’s less-than-spectacular snowmobiling stunts, Adam stumbles upon a hole in the middle of the ice, the frigid water inside regularly breached by the rostrums of the aforementioned whales surfacing to breathe. After Adam’s report on the trapped cetaceans goes national, the tiny frozen town is soon overrun with people looking to save the whales (nicknamed Fred, Wilma, and Bamm-Bamm), for both ideological and opportunistic reasons. Leading the effort are Rachel Kramer (Drew Barrymore), a strident Greenpeace activist, her frequent foil, Arctic oil baron J.W McGraw (Ted Danson, not the least bit convincing as an oil man), and the local Inupiat tribe, all of whom have their own motives for participating in the rescue effort.

Director Ken Kwapis, veteran of “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” and numerous TV series like “The Office” and “Malcolm in the Middle,” wrangles a large cast full of comedy ringers in tiny roles (Andy Daly, Rob Riggle, and John Michael Higgens, among others) into a surprisingly funny and wry family movie. While other films about sea-faring mammals tend to play down to kids and overdose on the treacle (I’m looking at you, “Dolphin Tale”), “Big Miracle” isn’t afraid to lay bare the real intentions behind the characters’ actions beyond “let’s save these whales!” Barrymore’s Rachel uses the occasion to call into question the environmental policy of the Reagan administration. Danson’s McGraw provides heavy de-icing equipment to put an environmentally-friendly face on his oil drilling operation. Krasinski’s Adam and Kristen Bell’s Los Angeles-based reporter Jill Jerard see the international attention as the big break their broadcast careers need. And the Inupiats see an opportunity to show the world they are more than culturally out-of-touch whale hunters.

While sometimes ungainly with too many characters fighting for too little screen time, “Big Miracle” ends up entertaining nonetheless. The real, honest laughs come from genuinely funny scenes, like an exasperated teacher in a classroom full of students doing identical oral reports on the whales, an icy helicopter ride wherein the pilot’s frozen eyelids are creatively defrosted, or winking reference to Alaska’s favorite idiot Sarah Palin, thankfully not from the typical family movie stabs at humor like a mugging pelican or beat-boxing otter.

He’s Just Not That Into You

February 13, 2009 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Ginnifer Goodwin, Justin Long, Jennifer Aniston
Directed by: Ken Kwapis (“License to Wed”)
Written by: Abbie Kohn (“Never Been Kissed”) and Marc Silverstein (“Never Been Kissed”)

Just when you thought women couldn’t be portrayed more desperate and neurotic than Sarah Jessica Parker at the end of “Sex and the City: The Movie” (if you think Carrie Bradshaw taking back Mr. Big was romantic, then I really don’t understand the opposite sex), meet the ladies of “He’s Just Not That Into You.”

While Bradshaw showed at least some signs of independence in “SATC” (she is a single woman living in New York City after all), the unapologetically weak women of “HJNTIY,” led by the likeable Ginnifer Goodwin (“Walk the Line”), are so unbelievably hopeless, you can’t help to not feel one ounce of sympathy for any of them who might end up alone for the rest of their lives.

The relationship troubles in this cliché romantic comedy start with Gigi (Goodwin), a twenty-something young woman from Baltimore who is searching for Mr. Right and always coming up short. Along with running into relationship dead-ends, Gigi, like Charlotte York from “SATC,” is a hopeless romantic and doesn’t quite grasp the idea of a man blowing her off after an amicable date.

There to soften the fall after her last taste of rejection is Alex (Justin Long), a bar manager who plays the all-knowing love guru and attempts to explain the rules of dating to a wide-eyed and heartbroken Gigi. She, of course, isn’t the only one with relationship woes in “HJNTIY.” Spread thinly across a forgettable script penned by “Never Been Kissed” screenwriters Abbie Kohn and March Silverstein, other characters include Beth (Jennifer Aniston), whose long-time boyfriend Neil (Ben Affleck) doesn’t believe in marriage; Ben (Bradley Cooper), who’s in a sexless marriage with Janine (Jennifer Connelly) and gets involved with aspiring singer Anna (Scarlett Johansson); and Mary (Drew Barrymore) who complains about how technology is ruining her love life.

Between these stories, director Ken Kwapis (“License to Wed”) decides to add filler with mock testimonials from men and women about their personal experiences in the dating scene. While it worked in a film like “When Harry Met Sally,” in “HJNTIY” it’s phony and unimaginative.

“HJNTIY” feels like a therapy session with friends you haven’t talked to in a long time. They mean well when they give you advice, but what do they know about what you’ve been going through in the last few years? Who needs advice anyway, when you’ve got Justin Long teaching the dos and don’ts of dating anyway? Lesson No. 1: girls are clingy, psychotic, mentally unbalanced morons whose happiness is determined by the men they are dating. It may not be a great morale for those who chose to soak it up like scripture, but, hey, at least its got a cute cast, right?