DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: ARCTIC TALE

Tuesday 11 December 2007


Arctic Tale (2007) dir. Adam Ravetch, Sarah Robertson


Capitalizing on the new wave of arctic-themed films that have been successful at the box office, Paramount Classics has released a feature length documentary made by National Geographic filmmakers entitled “Arctic Tale”. The success of “March of the Penguins” still boggles my mind. As a result the market has been flooded with penguins, polar bears, seals etc. "Arctic Tale" doesn't tell us anything a dozen other similar nature films haven't shown us, but those polar bears are just so darn cute, it's difficult to resist.

Admittedly the attraction of “Arctic Tale” is its DVD cover – a very cute polar bear kissing its polar bear cub. Who can resist that? I couldn’t. The film is made for kids though. Queen Latifah cast because of her voiceover work on the “Ice Age” series narrates this film like a mother reading a bedtime story to her kids. She explains everything that’s happening in front of our eyes with an irritating high-pitched inflection. But I kept saying to myself, “it’s for kids, it’s for kids”.

Essentially it’s "Ice Age" without the talking animals. The story is so structured like a dramatic film it would have been natural for the animals to start talking, singing and dancing (and there are a few pop music montage sequences). The story is built around two story threads - the life cycles of a Polar Bear and her cub and a Walrus and her pub. The Polar Bear mother emerges from her winter slumber having given birth to two young gorgeous bear cubs. The documentarians chart their course across the ice and ocean to hunting territory and back. The walrus has a similar story except they live together with a couple dozen other walruses. Eventually the polar bears have to leave their mother and venture out into the world on their own. The third act weaves the token environmental story about the threat to their species of warming climate. It’s not particularly effective and seems kind of perfunctory, but these days it's impossible not to reference global warming.

The footage is overtly manipulated and edited to create exciting actions sequences and story plot points. There’s a moment when a male polar bear attacks a young walrus pub. The animals clearly never came close to each other; instead some creative editing made it appear there was a suspensful threat. I could see through the fakery, but I again said to myself – “its for kids”. There’s even toilet humour – a whole scene devoted to Walrus flatulence – embellished with awful farting sound effects. Remember – “it’s for kids”

The film is cute and whenever those polar bear cubs were on screen the film was made highly tolerable and enjoyable. National Geographic has been making these films for decades and better ones at that. So, I can only imagine the frustrations of all the other filmmakers who missed the arctic nature film bandwagon.

Now someone has to make a film about a polar bear that rides shotgun in a big rig and fights crime. A little CGI and hack screenwriter could whip up something good after the strike. Enjoy.

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