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Arctic Tale

Arctic Tale is another endearing animal documentary with an important underlying environmental message. Not as well done as March of the Penguins but affecting nonetheless.


Granted, there's a glut of environmental movies--March of the Penguins, An Inconvenient Truth, the upcoming Leonardo DiCaprio-narrated The 11th Hour, even Happy Feet--but really, it should only be the tip of the iceberg. Movies such as those above and Arctic Tale are vital, so we can see how devastating the effects can be on humankind's excess and drastic climate change. With Arctic Tale, wrapping this message up into an engaging story about some of the Arctic's primary denizens—in this case, an adorable polar bear cub named Nanu and a walrus pup named Seela—keeps things close to the heart. Narrated by Queen Latifah, these two youngsters have it tough from the get-go, but the fact the very ice that makes up their kingdom is literally melting away makes it near impossible to survive. For example, Nanu and Seela both have to venture away from their disappearing ice-bound realm, swimming for days in the open sea, looking for a place where they can get food and shelter. It's heart-wrenching--and it brings the point home. The predators and the hunted actually have to band together to face this single danger and seek out new ways to live in a world where the rules have changed.


Queen Latifah brings her own wry sense of humor and ghetto fabulousness to Arctic Tale. She especially comes to life when she narrates Seela's exploits with her large, extended family. Walruses are a gregarious bunch, and Latifah does a great job describing the sea animals, as they flop around on each other on a floating ice floe or play "pull the flipper" after eating pounds and pounds of clams. Yes, even farting walruses are funny. But comparisons to Morgan Freeman, who is so very commanding in March of the Penguins, will abound—and unfortunately, Latifah doesn't do the job quite as effectively.


March of the Penguins has raised the bar; not since Born Free has a nature film been more inspiring, powerful or exquisitely shot. But maybe that's a good thing for wildlife filmmakers, who now must aspire to capture nature's grandeur and beauty the way Penguins did. Arctic Tale's cinematography may not be as crisp as Penguins, but filmmakers Adam Ravetch and Sarah Robertson, who--through the National Geographic Natural History unit--certainly give it their best shot to bring us Nanu and Seela's stories. They spent the last 15 years getting to know their protagonists "very carefully," shooting over 800 hours of soul-stirring footage in the Canadian Arctic. Most effective are the shots underneath the ice, where we see Arctic life in the murky depths--not only the walruses but other extremely unique aquatic animals such as thick-billed murres, birds that actually fly underwater, and narwhals, fascinating whales with unicorn-like horns on their heads. Overall, Arctic Tale's one true message is clear: Stop global warming before it's too late.

Bottom Line rated this film 3 stars.