Moby schtick

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews -

NOW, LOOK HERE. This writer is as wet a lib­eral as you could fear to meet. On bal­ance I am op­posed to send­ing chil­dren up chim­neys, poi­son­ing pan­das and si­lenc­ing Janeane Garo­falo. But this sanc­ti­mo­nious clap­trap is enough to pro­pel the most ded­i­cated eco-war­rior to­wards the John Birch So­ci­ety.

Big Mir­a­cle con­cerns it­self with that 1988 news story – wrack your brains, oldies – con­cern­ing the ab­surdly ex­pen­sive res­cue of sev­eral stranded whales in north­ern Alaska.

The film-mak­ers do at­tempt some bal­ance. As the story pro­gresses, it emerges that Green­peace, the Rea­gan ad­min­is­tra­tion, the Soviet au­thor­i­ties, the oil drillers and the indige­nous Inu­piat com­mu­nity all saw the cam­paign as a pub­li­cre­la­tions ex­er­cise.

How­ever, the over­whelm­ing tone of wor­thi­ness is quite suf­fo­cat­ing. By the close, one moves from wish­ing that Drew Bar­ry­more, as the chief en­viro-nut, would just shut up, to imag­in­ing a world in which Green­peace ac­tivists could be con­fined in un­reg­u­lated bat­tery farms.

This is sto­ry­telling of the most galumph­ing class. John Krazin­ski plays a jour­nal­ist stranded in the icy town of Bar­row. To bet­ter demon­strate the film-mak­ers’ in­clu­sive­ness, our hero makes friends with a young Inu­piat lad who, ini­tially ad­dicted to poo­dle rock, grad­u­ally comes to terms with his na­tive her­itage. Ted Dan­son growls as a ra­pa­cious oil mag­nate with a deeply buried heart of gold. Bar­ry­more com­plains shrilly. Some­body’s back plays the rear sec­tion of Ron­ald Rea­gan.

On re­flec­tion, it is the film’s des­per­ate ef­forts to be even­handed – rather than too much green pros­e­lytis­ing – that re­ally grates on the nerves. Ev­ery pass­ing char­ac­ter is re­vealed to have both self­ish mo­tives and hid­den in­tegrity.

The at­tempts to hu­man­ise the con­tem­po­ra­ne­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion is par­tic­u­larly lu­di­crous. “Gor­bachev has been ask­ing us to trust him on this ‘Glas­nost’ thing,” one of­fi­cial says, when con­sid­er­ing call­ing in the Soviet ice­break­ers. We cut to Rea­gan’s back as he picks up the phone. “Hello? Gorby?” the great com­mu­ni­ca­tor in­tones.

I laughed so hard I could barely swal­low my un­eth­i­cally reared veal.

Thar she blows: Drew Bar­ry­more

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