About 15 minutes into the new inspirational family film
, an insufferable Drew Barrymore exclaims, "But this is different—
are in danger!" I rolled my eyes so hard I almost had a seizure. Playing a Greenpeace activist fighting to help free a family of gray whales trapped in the rapidly freezing Arctic Ocean, Barrymore oozes with maudlin sap while still managing to be an obnoxious bitch—and I
Drew Barrymore. The otherwise enjoyable cast includes cute-as-a-button John Krasinski playing the small-town reporter who breaks the story and Ted Danson—who lately can do no wrong—as a northern Alaskan oil baron (who is still more likable than Barrymore's activist). Based on the true story that became international news in 1988,
benefits from an impressive series of events and some cool archival news footage, including a young Tom Brokaw. In what was primarily a political stunt, the Reagan administration deployed the National Guard and even reached out to the Commie Russians for help freeing the whales. The expense was surely exorbitant, but when people work together despite their differences (cue orchestra's sentimental crescendo) that warm, blubbery feeling is priceless.
Liam Neeson's latest box-office smash is essentially the John Milius-penned
—"so, eleven hundred men went in the water; 316 men come out, and the sharks took the rest, June the 29th, 1945"—if you culled the initial survivors down to seven, replaced the sharks with wolves, and replaced John Milius with nobody. Neeson is working as a wolf sniper on a Yukon pipeline and thinking about shooting himself in the face (say what you will about Liam's recent testosterone surge, when you get Oskar Schindler to anchor your action flick, you get a guy with a flair for looking like he wants to shoot himself in the face), but he boards the wrong charter plane home. The inevitable plane crash is extremely loud and incredibly gross. Because
is not based on a true story, there's none of the usual survival-tale compunction about getting intimate with severed body bits. Director Joe Carnahan (
) homes his camera in tight as the doomed men give the dogs their bones. It's unsettling and only somewhat undermined by the dialogue, which I believe Carnahan achieved by asking a drunken child to read Jack London aloud. Anyway, Neeson delivers the bombs.