Opening Friday, Universal’s new film “Big Miracle,” starring Drew Barrymore and John Krasinski, is the fictionalized retelling of the 1988 rescue of three California gray whales trapped off the coast of Barrow, Alaska, and the media circus that sprung up around the efforts to cut a path through the arctic ice to set them free.

It was an event that united Greenpeace, the oil industry, the Reagan administration and the Soviet Union near the end of the Cold War, and a story that the film’s makers are hoping will appeal to the same family moviegoers who turned up to support last year’s “Dolphin Tale,” a Warner Bros. title with a relatively modest budget centering on the plight of an aquatic creature that earned upward of $72 million for the studio.

Although “Big Miracle” isn’t specifically aimed at the Christian community, the film might need a small miracle of its own to win the weekend at the box office — opening as it is against “The Woman in Black,” a new supernatural thriller starring Daniel Radcliffe, and “Chronicle,” a found-footage movie aimed primarily at teens, not to mention Sunday’s Super Bowl.

Based on the book “Freeing the Whales: How the Media Created the World’s Biggest Non-Event” by journalist Tom Rose, the film stars Barrymore as crusading environmentalist Rachel Kramer and Krasinski as local television journalist Adam Carlson, who makes his career by breaking the whales story.

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