In the fall of 1988, three trapped whales struggled to reach the ocean, inspiring disparate folks from around the globe---Eskimos, environmental activists, even a Russian seaman or two---to come together for an emergency rescue operation. Now, in the winter of 2012, those same dogged mammals have prompted an equally motley crew---romantic stalwart Drew Barrymore, television stars John Krasinski and Ted Danson, character actors and improv comics---to do the same in Ken Kwapis's dramatization. It all starts when Krasinski's bored local newsman stumbles onto the creatures off the icy coast of Barrow, Alaska. His reports spark both a media circus and a mass attempt to release these beasts back into the wild.
A veteran TV director, Kwapis presents a shrewdly skeptical view of the calculated opportunism behind "miracles"; if Danson's drill-happy oilman didn't need a good photo op, those whales would have ended up deader than the cast of The Cove. You'd have to possess a heart colder than the Northern tundra not to care about these poor animals working their flukes off to jerk audience tears, but emotional manipulation or not, this is still a movie about people standing around a hole waiting for something to happen. The source material, Tom Rose's 1989 book Freeing the Whales, called the incident "the world's greatest nonevent." At the very least, the film stays remarkably faithful to the idea behind that last word.
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