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HD DVD Review: Arctic Tale

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Bashing the viewer over the head with both a global warming message and Queen Latifah’s meandering narration, Arctic Tale is an interesting to look at piece of filmmaking with little to connect the images. The edited Arctic footage barely comes together to form the loose story of a polar bear and a walrus as they struggle to survive numerous hardships. Unfortunately, it’s never that compelling.

Spectacular here are the underwater images, some which get as close as touching the animals with the camera. It’s stunningly beautiful, and never feels repetitive. The amount of varied life forms keeps the film interesting, though the focus is always the main two “characters.”

As the animals begin their lives, the nature footage kicks in. At times, it’s blatantly obvious the shots used were inserted solely for the purpose of the script. These unnatural moments pull the viewer out of the experience, and it’s apparent that you’re never seeing the original bear or walrus as the film moves on.

Queen Latifah is no Morgan Freeman, who would narrate the same filmmaker's documentary March of the Penguins. Her lines are delivered with an extra layer of cheese at times that even kids could see through. The script is no help, and neither are the pathetically added sound effects at times.

If you’re not a believer in global warming, this is the time to turn back. It’s surprising how they avoid the actual term “global warming” until the end credits. Still, the message is clear. Kids on the other hand, who this is definitely aimed at, will come away with the idea the real villain is a male polar bear and never look at them the same way again.

Its heart is in the right place, but Arctic Tale tries too hard. The footage, while spectacular and unique, doesn’t make for a believable tale. As a straight documentary, this would have been fascinating. With the generic story slapped on it, it’s not entertaining.

HD fans who were blown away by Planet Earth thanks to its flawless video and expect the same here are going to be disappointed. The problem has nothing to do with the transfer. The source is the issue, as not everything was done in HD, especially the wonderful underwater footage which is marred by murkiness and bleeding color.

Some close-ups used a zoomed-in view, enhancing film grain to unbearable levels. Shots that are in HD are phenomenal, with high detail and sharpness. Sadly, they’re not as common as one would expect.

Dolby Digital Plus greets the audio fan. While not consistently active, the film offers multiple notable moments. Waves crashing provide fantastic depth from the LFE channel, and the occasional tense moment can deliver some okay if unimpressive surround work. For most of the feature, this is a front loaded delivery.

Extras are sparse, though Making of Arctic Tale is a must see. It’s captivating to see how the shots were captured and the struggles to get them. At 24 minutes, it’s a wonderful complement to the movie. Are We There Yet? World Adventure: Polar Bear Spotting is a seven minute clip of two kids traveling to Canada to try and glimpse some polar bears (which of course they do). It’s not much to look at, and the trailer is the final extra after that.

Though rated G, smaller or overly sensitive children may have a tough time with some of the deaths included in the movie. They’re greatly humanized through the narration, and it makes some of the scenes difficult.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for His current passion project is the technically minded You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.