A polar bear cub and a walrus pup are brought into a world that is ever changing and dangerous to their chances of survival.
Arctic Tale is advertised as a perfect family film. I would tend to disagree with that assessment. As I watched the documentary, I began to get more and more unsure of its effect on a child watching it. By the end, I had decided that I really don’t know if I would show this to my child much less to anyone over the age of twelve.
Made by the “people who brought you March of the Penguins”, Arctic Tale gives us the story of two Arctic animals – the polar bear and the walrus. Narrated by Queen Latifah, we first meet them at the time of their births. Nanu is a female polar bear cub who is born with a twin brother in tow. Seela is a walrus pup born and protected by both her mother and her “auntie.” We then follow the two as they make their way through life in the ever more difficult terrain of the Arctic North.
What makes the documentary difficult to recommend to kids is that you are put in the position to cheer for the polar bear and walrus, natural enemies in the dog-eat-dog world of the Arctic. You meet Nanu and watch as he goes out hunting for food with his mother. What is that food, you might ask? Dinner is a seal, described by Queen Latifah in her narration as a distant cousin of Seela. What are you supposed to tell your kid when you watch as Nanu eats the distant cousin of our other hero?
This would not be a problem if it were set up in the far superior way that March of the Penguins was created. In March, Morgan Freeman narrated the events of the penguin’s journey in a matter of fact voice because their journey was so astonishing that it was not necessary for the actor to add any over the top theatrics to his presentation. Queen Latifah did the exact opposite, adding jokey talk and ironic subtext to the tale of the animals’ lives. It was almost cartoony in her presentation. Because of this, you are not watching animals fighting to survive, you are watching characters that you are supposed to love and embrace. Because of that, the movie is a great failure as a documentary.
To make it worse, the movie is not interesting for anyone over the age of twelve either. That is a true loss, because the movie tells a great and important story that the general public needs to know. This is not a story about a polar cub or a walrus pup, it is a story about the dangers of global warming and the dangers that it poses to the animals who are finding it harder and harder to survive in the changing climate.
The animals are forced to travel long distances to keep from starving to death. The winters are becoming shorter and shorter and more of the animals are dying because they cannot survive in the higher temperatures caused by global warming. However, the lessons to be learned through the movie are offset with a cartoony attitude that attributes human qualities to the animals. These are not humans, with thought processes similar to our own. I understand that the filmmakers believed that this was the best way to help children understand the story they are trying to tell. However it is all a lie.
This is not to say that the film is a complete failure. The scenes shot in the Arctic were beautiful. All the footage was powerful and amazing and all the credit in the world goes to the men who went out there and captured what we would see in the film. Unfortunately the editing team destroyed what could have been an incredible film. I could have done without the music. When “We Are Family” began to play while the walrus clan laid around with obvious fake farting noises coming from all the animals, I was almost disgusted in what the documentary had become. Queen Latifah’s quips and comments were stupid, although it should make little kids laugh. This movie could have been an accomplishment that could really have raised the consciousness about the dangers of global warming to kids.
The movie tells us that “The Arctic’s summer sea ice has shrunk by 20 percent in recent decades. If the current trend continues, the Arctic Ocean could be virtually ice-free in the summer of 2040.” Queen Latifah then ends the film ends with an important comment about the animals of the Arctic. “What would their children do if it disappears? What will ours?” Co-written by Kristin Gore, daughter of Al Gore, it is a message that they feel is important and a message that deserves to be spread to all people, young and old. Unfortunately, this movie is not good enough to warrant that message.
This picture is gorgeous. The transfer is simply amazing and everything looks perfect. It is presented in 16×9 Widescreen and everything looks pristine. It is as close to perfect as you can get. The sound is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround as well as Dolby 2.0. It is really good and everything sounds great.
There is an amazing making-of documentary that shows the filmmakers on site in the Arctic with footage of the filmmakers within inches of the giant walruses. This documentary really shows the love and dedication that went into creating the beautiful film. Another feature is called Are We There Yet? World Adventure: Polar Bear Spotting. This is a feature narrated by kids who went to Canada to find polar bears. It is a nice little piece for the kids. There are also trailers.