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Instead of providing a carefree romp through the polar wilderness, the film shoehorns in a blaring global warming message.

DVD Review: Arctic Tale

Written by Caballero Oscuro 

If you just didn’t get enough icy nature viewing with March of the Penguins, this year’s model called Arctic Tale has arrived on DVD. Instead of focusing on penguins in the Antarctic, the film travels to the other pole to track the lives of a polar bear cub and a young walrus among others.

Arctic Tale takes the form of a narrative documentary, with the actions on screen cobbled together into rudimentary stories that attempt to convey the circle of life in the Arctic Circle. While many Arctic animals are included, the stars are a young polar bear named Nanu and a walrus pup named Seela. The action is split into three timeframes in their lives: shortly after birth, around two years old, and around eight years old. That large time gap calls into question whether the animals on screen were really the same, but regardless, the point of the film is clearly conveyed. And oh yes, does it have a point.

Instead of just providing a carefree romp through the polar wilderness, the film takes pains to shoehorn in a blaring global warming message, constantly talking about the shrinking ice fields and resulting harm to the feeding and migratory habits of the animals. Its final frame is a pointed message about how the ice fields are currently on track to erode by 2040 if we don’t do anything, fading out until only the “IF” is left on screen.

As for viewing guidelines, the film does touch on the full circle of life, so there are a couple of deaths presented on screen. They’re handled tastefully and are fairly brief, but parents should be aware for their youngest viewers. Also, the pace is relatively slow, especially in the early stages, so kids with short attention spans will be best served with a pass on this one.

The photography in this National Geographic Society production is suitably scenic, although there’s nothing to really set it apart from the crowd. Viewers wowed by the technical mastery of the Planet Earth series will be somewhat disappointed with the relatively flat and listless presentation here.

The film is narrated by Queen Latifah, a serviceable but completely unremarkable performance. In her defense, her script isn’t anything special and she’s saddled with conveying the constant global warming message that detracts from enjoying the nature photography. Frankly, viewers might be better off just eliminating the soundtrack completely to allow unadulterated nature appreciation.

Arctic Tale is now available on DVD and HD DVD.

About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS

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