So in 1988, three grey whales were stranded in Arctic ice, and a massive, international rescue operation was launched, which involved using ships to tear a path through the ice to the sea. The world looked on as the United States and Soviet Union worked together to save the big fellas. Also, it turns out, a charming, dry-witted journalist (J. Krasinski) played a crucial role in the operation, as did a cute, whale-loving, Greenpeace type (DrewBs) who looks as natural in scuba gear as Dermot Mulroney looks in camo. (Spoiler alert: their banterous yet longing relationship will wear on your nerves, and they end up together.)
Yes, this is a decent family film -- it's got majestic creatures, lessons in compassion and cooperation, enough danger to keep the kids excited, and an ending that will leave them happy and comforted. It's also got a colorful cast of characters like "Bumbling" Tim Blake Nelson, "Outrageous" Rob Riggle, Stephen "Root Against Him", plus and Ted Dansen too. Still, just because a story involves animals that don't eat people, does that mean it can only be told as a generic, well-intentioned, Disnefied sapfest? Teach kids about the fragility of nature, sure, but give us a break on the soaring musical score and the "bond" between Barrymore and the whale baby. If I wanted to see something laughably unrealistic, I'd skip to Krasinski's crying scene.
Freeing those whales was an amazing feat, and the story is worth telling. They splash their way to freedom, the screen fades to black, we are given a cautionary statistic about grey whale populations, and everyone goes home happy. Maybe your daughter even has a new favorite animal. But just to shake things up, I'd like to see a harder dose of reality for the little ones. They can handle it, and more importantly, they will care about it. If I took my boy to see this, and I later came upon him playing "ship and whale" with his toy things, I might playfully observe to him that no ship can put ice back together, huh son? Polar bears can't hunt with all the ice melting, and lots of them are dying. The food chain is collapsing, and that's not good for your whale friends. Oh, and that oil tanker you're playing with? How much krill do you think will be left for little Bam Bam to eat once we've filled the seas with poison? But please, enjoy your game.
This I'd tell him, and the boy might have some sleepless nights, but he'd learn something and, if he cared, he'd want to learn more. If not, I'd have learned a couple things myself: I have no son; and never expect much from the director of The Beautician and the Beast.
Dorien Sez: B-
Watch the Trailer: