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Arctic Tale

by Eva Amsen

I had a free pass to see Arctic Tale last night, so I did, but in retrospect I don’t think it was worth the trip to the suburban movie theatre. Arctic Tale is the story of a baby polar bear (Nanu) and a baby walrus (Seela) who grow up in the Arctic in a time when the winters are too short and far between for the ice they need to respectively hunt on and rest on to be fully formed.

It’s a kids movie, but I couldn’t imagine being a kid and liking it. Queen Latifah does the narration, and sounds like she’s reading to four year olds. But the story itself is too complex for that age. There were a lot of four year olds in the audience, though, and they collectively laughed at the walrus fart scene (yes, there is a “walrus fart scene”) but the whole storyline of not being able to find food when the climate conditions change went way over their head. There is probably a narrow age window of 6 to 8 where kids would still find the jokes funny and understand the issues, but there’s little appeal for anyone else. There is one enjoyable montage set in an Arctic summer, where you see a bunch of different animals swim, run, and fly around to remind people that it’s not as bare and boring as it seems up there. This scene was set to instrumental music, but some of the other montages are set to pop music with lyrics that were somehow related to the story, but music that doesn’t fit at all. Case in point: a big walrus family dancing to a segment of “We are family”.

The entire cast of the film is made up of animals, but during the end credits we see cheesy studio segments of kids reciting ways to conserve energy. The tips are all aimed at kids too (“Tell your parents to…”) but I can’t imagine any kid actually taking this advice. It might have been better to leave it out, and let them draw their own conclusions or discuss it with an adult.
As a climate change movie for kids it doesn’t really work, and as a movie for adults it doesn’t work at all. The naming of the two main characters is kind of cute, in that you can relate to them, but it’s also a dead giveaway that those two characters will survive the story. (Nanu’s frail twin brother bear remains unnamed — guess what happens to him?)

Go see it if you’re about six to eight years old and really like polar bears and/or walruses and are concerned about the environment. Otherwise: skip it. I’m rarely negative about movies, and I really like polar bears and I agree that they’re having a hard time when their seasons shift, but this was just a totally unnecessary movie. (Rotten Tomatoes agrees.)

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