By: Oberst Von Berauscht (Four Beers) –
Three Whales trapped in ice near the far Northern Alaska town of Barrow made international headlines in the late 80’s. This story captured the imagination of millions of reactionary twits who don’t seem to understand that the logistics involved in saving them could have been put to better use in other ways. 20 years later this story makes good fodder for a PG rated feel-good movie.
Hey, at least I’m being honest about it…
From twenty-dollar enchiladas to surprisingly important uses of cardboard, the Alaskan setting of the film is well used; as a viewer you get a real fish out of water experience. The filmmakers did a great job in creating the otherworldly feel of living in such a remote place. The Inuit actors are also well used in presenting a strong argument for their way of life, in spite of the moral outrage artists who claim to know better.
The problem comes in the film’s insistence on following so many characters. None of the characters are given a chance to develop, leaving each of them feeling paper-thin, and without depth. Drew Barrymore, for instance, plays the Greenpeace volunteer most responsible or the rescue effort. But without taking time to learn more about her character she is left looking incredibly naive. I consider myself a nature person, but her character seems to see everyone who isn’t 100% devoted to her cause as the enemy of the environment. Note to filmmakers, and Activists: presenting yourself as a completely unlikable nag is not a good way to get people on your side. In fact, it inspires the opposite reaction.
“Hey, you gotta Nuke something…”
And by the way, the Whales in the movie are given the names Fred, Wilma, and Bam-Bam… Looking up the history behind this story, I found that the whales had completly different nicknames in real life, but ones that are not known and exploitable properties, which of course will always attract more attention in youthful demographics. It might seem like nitpicking, but this is only one of many examples of crass appeals to the common denominator this film makes.
The film misses out on some good chances for some sardonic social commentary. While I admit that saving the trapped whales was a nice thing to do, it ultimately was also a huge risk of money, resources, and of peoples lives. Only Ted Danson’s Oil Executive character gets a few scenes which show the humorous potential of the situation. (Scenes which feel forced by Mr. Danson’s downright wooden performance.) It is an opportunity that could have given more substance to what is ultimately a fairly mediocre film.
It’s watchable, but you may find yourself hating it all the more for not being better, or worse.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for Drew Barrymore’s environmental bitching
Take a Drink: whenever the word “whale” is used (you might want to go easy)
Drink a Shot: for off-camera Reagan, and other Republican cameos (bonus if you can spot Sarah Palin)