Paramount // 2007 // 86 Minutes // Rated
Reviewed by Judge Franck Tabouring (Retired) // April 6th, 2009
From the people who brought you March of the Penguins comes a real adventure in the coolest place on Earth.
Adam Ravetch's and Sarah Robertson's family documentary Arctic Tale (Blu-Ray) takes viewers of all ages to the beautiful icebound world of the Arctic, where a cute polar bear cup named Nanu and a walrus pup named Seela set out to explore their habitats and eventually face the harsh challenges caused by the rapidly melting ice. While the film provides a solid dose of information about the different life cycles of these animals, it also uses these two central narratives as a way to direct viewers' attention to the harmful impact global warming has on the Arctic.
Visually as well as technically, Arctic Tale is a stunning experience. Almost every single shot in this film carries a special appeal, and the vast collection of gorgeous footage of both animals and arctic landscapes will undoubtedly impress audiences young and old. To me, the most surprising aspect of all this is how close the filmmakers get to these animals, particularly in the scenes focusing on Seela and her family. In some of these astonishing shots, they're literally within reach of the walruses, giving the whole experience of watching these animals a more realistic touch.
While the first 20 minutes focus solely on how the baby bear and walrus follow their respective parent to explore the vastness of their environment, the movie soon builds a case against global warming, examining in detail how these different animals struggle day in, day out to survive. This is where Arctic Tale adopts a more dramatic atmosphere in an attempt to move its viewers and eventually inspire them to take action and care more about their own environment. Even though this is certainly interesting for a while, the repetitive reminder that our planet is in peril soon becomes a tad too monotonous.
That said, Arctic Tale is primarily a documentary for the kids, and in that regard, the film certainly achieves its goals. Corny music and a goofy and at times a little too sentimental narration by Queen Latifah serve as tactics to soften you up a bit. Depending on what kind of personality you have, the film may indeed leave a strong mark on you. Young viewers may not mind this at all, but I'm sure adults will respond differently to the film's central message. Although I enjoyed most of the fantastic footage of Arctic Tale, I was mostly annoyed by the narration and actually expected a little more variation in the footage of animals and nature. Watching the same thing with the same angle for almost 90 minutes can quickly turn into a dragging experience.
Even though the majority of the shots in this movie are visually amazing, the image quality of this Blu-ray edition didn't quite satisfy me as much as I thought it would. The disc's 2.35:1 non-anamorphic widescreen presentation looks decent, but as it turns out, a whole bunch of shots are a little too grainy for my taste. The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD audio transfer, on the other hand, is flawless; soundtrack, natural sound effects, and Latifah's voiceover are perfectly balanced.
Besides a trailer, the bonus material on this disc included two featurettes, which, sadly, are presented in standard definition only. "The Making of Arctic Tale" is a highly informative 24-minute behind-the-scenes look that examines in detail the numerous challenges the filmmakers encountered during the making of the feature. With insightful commentaries by Ravetch and Robertson and footage of them capturing the arctic animals and landscapes, this piece is almost more intriguing than the film itself. The special features also include "Are We There Yet? World Adventure: Polar Bear Spotting," a 7-minute episode in which two kids embark on a trip to Canada to look for polar bears. This one's strictly for the younger ones.
As a family film that will keep the kids engaged for 90 minutes, Arctic Tale certainly succeeds. However, despite its beautiful footage, the film fails to live up to the quality and success of March of the Penguins, which offered more variety, won an Oscar, and grossed $77.4 million in North America alone.
This one is walking on thin ice. Guilty.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated
* Official Site