With every "inspired by true events" Hollywood production, comes the inevitable reality of what ACTUALLY happened out there, in the middle of nowhere, so many years ago.
With time and distance comes creative license, but in the case of "Big Miracle," the essence of this dramatic rescue attempt in 1988 of three California gray whales, stuck in ice off the coast of Alaska, did occur.
In Hollywood's version, a TV news reporter, Adam (John Krasinski), spots the three grays, which he affectionately calls Fred, Wilma and Bam-Bam (not true), while shooting an unrelated feature story.
A Greenpeace worker and Adam's former love interest, Rachel (Drew Barrymore), arrives on the scene to yell at the local Inupiat tribal leaders, the Alaskan governor and the oil executives to get them to help the unfortunate whales (partly true).
In reality, an Inupiat tribal leader spotted the "endangered" whales (a species he would not hunt, even if he wanted to, which he didn't). The three whales were all young, most likely scouting for richer feeding areas farther away than normal, since the herd was growing so large.
Marine biologists suggested rescuers let nature take its course since the whales were not necessary for the breeding of their species, and because they were so badly battered and bleeding from the jagged ice forming around them.
The rescuers/volunteers who created the series of breathing holes that led to open waters were paid $15 dollars an hour (decent money in 1988) and were fed bowhead whale meat stewing in pots along the route. But there's no way that was going to be mentioned in this glossed-over adventure.
Indeed, the Soviets did come to the rescue with their massive ice-breaking ship, after the Alaskan National Guard attempted to drag an oil-industry hovercraft to the scene. It was the growing throng of journalists that scared the whales farther away from open water, rather than the Soviets, but where's the fun in that?
What you do get is a human interest story filled with extra comedic characters that lighten the mood, or add romance, or include additional self-interest, where none existed before.
Sure, the oil company used the event as a positive PR move, but it didn't take a clever and conniving executive's wife to point it out to her stubborn, profits-driven husband.
What it did point out is that sometimes compassion can overcome common sense. In essence, human beings came together across social, cultural, political and economic divides to do a good deed.
That's the "Big Miracle" of this super-sweetened adventure, which is worth revisiting.
Steve Salles can be reached at email@example.com.