Anthropomorphized animals' plight likely to thaw even the coldest hearts

Arctic Tale

on July 27, 2007 by Chad Greene
Constructed from incredibly cute footage of a polar bear cub and a walrus calf and the sparkling icescape they inhabit, Arctic Tale puts, if not a human face on the effects of climate change, then the next best thing: an anthropomorphized animal one.

Although the disastrous impacts of global warming on arctic habitats are referenced repeatedly in Queen Latifah's narration, “heart-warming” is probably the best term to describe the images of polar bear Nanu and walrus Seela—the two main characters in this documentary co-written by Kristin Gore, the daughter of former Vice President Al Gore ( An Inconvenient Truth ).

Directors Adam Ravetch and Sarah Robertson follow Nanu from the moment that she first emerges from a birthing den on the slippery slopes of “Snow Mountain” alongside her mother to the time she returns there to become a mother herself. (Seela is similarly tracked until the point of sexual maturity.) Although they don't gloss over the realities of life in the wild—in one scene, Nanu eats a member of Seela's family in order to survive— Artic Tale earns its G rating the old-fashioned way: through a tasteful selection of shots.

Less tasteful is the sometimes saccharine narration, into which Queen Latifah has injected rather jarring colloquialisms. The walruses of Seela's herd, for instance, are described as being both “large and in charge” and “all up in each other's business.”

There are also a few too many rounds in what she describes as the “game of ‘pull my flipper,'” as audience members whose ages are no longer in the single digits will rapidly tire of close-ups of a pile of burping and farting walruses on an ice floe. Some of the music choices aim similarly low, as when a montage of walrus life is set to Sister Sledge's “We Are Family.”

All of this distracts from the otherwise effective—although somewhat on-the-nose—message here about how humans' careless consumption can impact the lives of animals thousands of miles away. That's more chilling than the Arctic Circle itself.
Distributor: Paramount Classics
Narrator: Queen Latifah
Directors: Adam Ravetch & Sarah Robertson
Screenwriters: Linda Woolverton and Mose Richards and Kristin Gore
Producers: Adam Leipzig and Keenan Smart
Genre: Documentary
Rating: G
Running time: 96 min.
Release dates: July 25, 2007 NY/LA, August 17 exp
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