Review by James Lindorf
Call it whatever you want, inside baseball, a peek behind the curtains, or seeing how the sausage is made, but I have one movie tip you may not know. When studios have a lot of faith that a movie will perform well financially or during award season, they are not shy about when reviews are released. Suppose they are worried that a poor Rotten Tomatoes score will drive away potential viewers. In that case, they wait till the last minute, if at all, to allow critics to share their opinions. It is a sound and valid business practice. However, that strategy can occasionally backfire. That is precisely what I think is about to happen to Netflix and their newest original film Blue Miracle.
Omar (Jimmy Gonzales), along with his wife Becca (Fernanda Urrejola), run Casa Hogar, an orphanage for young boys in the Mexican city of Cabo San Lucas. Omar grew up on the streets and is looking to provide the home, love, and help he wished someone had given him. Life is good but not smooth sailing between runaway kids, others being brought home by the police, and the bank breathing down their necks. The kids they can handle, but when the bank gives them 30 days to pay their balance of $117,000, they need a miracle if they want to save Casa Hogar. Enter cantankerous fishing boat captain Wade (Dennis Quaid) and the Bisbee Black and Blue fishing tournament with a first-place prize of $250,000. Omar and a few boys join Wade’s team in a last-ditch effort to save their home.
Like many family movies based on real-life events such as McFarland USA or another Dennis Quaid movie, The Rookie, Blue Miracle is, at best, mostly accurate. Sometimes amazing things happen in life, but most of them can’t hold your attention for 96 minutes without a little added spice. Director Julio Quintana (The Vessel) adapted the events into a screenplay with Chris Dowling (Run the Race), adding drama and conflict where maybe none existed. There are kids with connections to rival gangs, a fight between Wade and one of the kids, and a highly coincidental boat-related death in Omar’s past. The plot is predictable but exciting enough to keep your attention, and you can’t help but root for the kids and Omar. It is an easy and heartwarming tale after possibly the longest year in recorded history, making it feel that much sweeter.
Jimmy Gonzales has been acting for nearly 20 years, and I am sad to say it has gone mostly unnoticed by me. That is over now, thanks to his strong performance as the caring and earnest Omar. You believe in his love for the kids and his fear of losing Casa Hogar and sending them back to the streets. He fights against his fear and a 300+ pound CGI marlin as well as you could expect, but that is a tough ask for anyone. He probably would appreciate me putting it this way, but Dennis Quaid has been acting for a little longer than I have been alive, and I have enjoyed him for as long as I can remember. Even when he is playing the curmudgeon like he is here, he is always an enjoyable addition to any film. He is now in his late 60’s and the gravelly voice makes him a natural choice for gruff and bitter characters with a lesson to learn. Wade is this world’s Quint; he is eccentric, yells a lot, could use a bigger boat, and happens to be the best fisherman for a thousand miles, if not more. If you weren’t quite feeling the comparison, they push it over the top with a scene of the characters comparing scars. Unlike Jaws, where they bond over shared stories, and lots of drinks, Blue Miracle has its heaviest moment when the kids talk about their scars. It is a dark moment that sticks out in an otherwise cheery film.
A good and easily digestible story, paired with good performances across the board, will make Blue Miracle a hit with many families. There hasn’t been much of a publicity campaign to get people to watch the movie when it becomes available on May 27th. Still, I think when it hits the New Releases section on Netflix, the trailer and the stunning cinematography of Santiago Benet Mari will get people to hit play. This is the second time Mari has worked with Quintana, but he is probably best known for his music videos. Mari sets up plenty of screen-saver-worthy shots, but the decision to amp up the saturation makes the colors, especially the blues, unnaturally vibrant. The world almost seems to be glowing, and surprisingly it is an enhancement instead of feeling artificial. I had a very good time with Blue Miracle, and I think it has the potential to spend many days in the Netflix top 10 thanks to word of mouth. If it underperforms, I believe the studio only has itself to blame for fearing this beautiful and heartwarming 4 out of 5 movie.
Director: Julio Quintana
Writers: Julio Quintana, Chris Dowling
Producers: Javier Chapa, Darren Moorman, Chris George, Ben Howard,Trey Reynolds
Cast: Jimmy Gonzales, Anthony Gonzalez, Raymond Cruz, Nathan Arenas, Miguel Angel Garcia, Isaac Arellanes, Steve Gutierrez, Dana Wheeler-Nicholson, Fernanda Urrejola, Silverio Palacios with Bruce McGill, Dennis Quaid
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