If Al Gore can have his Power Point, Queen Latifah has her baby polar bear and walrus. Capitalizing on the successes of both March of the Penguins and An Inconvenient Truth, the sappy Arctic Tale is more akin to a commercial for a McDonald’s Happy Meal.
Set in the northern most reaches of the world, Arctic Tale traces the life path of a polar bear dubbed Nanu and a walrus named Seela. It begins with their births and their struggles to survive on the desolate tundra. And right when you think that it’s March of the Penguins Redux, we’re presented with a more pressing matter that any of the producers and marketers failed to mention, nor one that is hinted at even at the beginning other than in one passing remark. It turns out the ice is melting and the cute little baby animals were merely a ploy to offer up some conservationist fear mongering.
The message I got from Arctic Tale was, “If you don’t fix things, this cute little polar bear is going to fall in the ocean and die.” Don’t get me wrong – global warming is a very real problem that must be addressed. Our world is screwed up and unless we correct our path, baby polar bears will drown. What I’ve got a problem with is the approach the film takes to present its case.
Arctic Tale was clearly aiming at kids and families as its target audience. Every ad I saw for it announced it was from the people who brought you that penguin flick. And by all counts the film aims to please. It starts out with a colder version of The Lion King‘s “Circle of Life” with a birth. And just when you get to know Nanu, Seela and their friends and family – WHAM! They got you. Nope, this is just a cutesy educational film. It’s got some propaganda behind it. And now that your kids are firmly entrenched in the fuzzy baby animals, they’re going to get sucked into the preaching whether you like it or not. Again, education is a key to working towards a better future. But after watching Arctic Tale I felt like a rube sucked in by the carnie speak. So just imagine how the wee tykes are going to react. By not being up front about its propaganda side, Arctic Tale is a lot like a commercial geared at children. It’s going to have them making demands to their parents whether they want to hear it or not. Yes, that might be a way to turn inaction into action. But wouldn’t a more meaningful strategy be to have people openly change rather than begrudgingly do it.
Politics shouldn’t make or break a film and with an Arctic Tale it didn’t. I didn’t like it much to begin with. It comes too close after March of the Penguins and feels more like an uninspired sequel than a fresh take on stories usually left to PBS and boring science classes where the teacher hasn’t got a lesson ready so they slap on a movie. The lifecycle story has been told over and over again.
Queen Latifah’s street-talk narration further adds to a sense of desperation in which the filmmakers are trying to connect with an audience. The problem is that when you obviously strive to be cool you’re automatically uncool. That’s Grade 8 Anthropology 101.
All griping aside, Arctic Tale does have a gorgeous backdrop to it. Perhaps if you play some relaxing music (or better yet Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon”) you might give yourself a whole different outlook on the film. Me – I just prefer when I don’t feel duped when I’m watching a movie.
Arctic Tale DVD Review
Considering Arctic Tale is meant to open viewers’ eyes to global warming, you’d think there’d be some outreach on the DVD. Instead what you get is a very basic DVD release that offers very little of anything other than a decent-quality presentation of the film itself.
The film is shown in an enhanced widescreen picture. I noticed some problems with the very dark colours, but these are largely limited to fade ins. The primary audio track is in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround. There’s also a stereo track and French and Spanish Surround tracks. Subtitles are offered in English, Spanish and French.
“Making of Arctic Tale” runs almost a half-hour and shows some gorgeous footage about how the film came together. Interesting, but what about this global warming stuff you speak of? “Are We There Yet? World Adventure: Polar Bear Spotting” is a mini episode from the popular children’s program in which a trio of youngsters travel the globe. Also included on the DVD are the film’s theatrical trailer and previews of An Inconvenient Truth, Shrek the Third and The Spiderwick Chronicles.
Arctic Tale Gallery