Arctic Tale **
Directed by Sarah Robertson
Written by Linda Woolverton and Mose Richards
Narrated by Queen Latifah
85 Minutes(Rated G)
"Arctic Tale" is yet another global warming warning documentary-straight on the heels of "An Inconvenient Truth," and "March of the Penguins." And next week I get to see an advanced screening of the new documentary "The 11th Hour," which looks as if it'll offer the same exact warning and similar facts and stories. I am somewhat getting tired of this message being rammed down my throat, and "Arctic Tale" tries to tug at your heartstrings by showing the viewer cute and cuddly arctic animals that are dying because of our mistakes. And during the credits they even show cute little children giving us advice on how to save cute and cuddly animals like this. So it's all one big cute and cuddly showcase that is really all done to put the viewer on some guilt trip. But I think that people are tiring of this documentary trend, and soon enough I will be avoiding nature documentaries just as much as I avoid the political one. Because I'm tired of getting this message told to me. And judging by the one person in the theatre with me, I think everybody else is too.
"Arctic Tale" is narrated by Queen Latifah. Actually, she isn't even billed as the narrator. She is billed as the "storyteller." And I remember about two months ago seeing the trailer for this and the narrator began saying "Join storyteller Queen Latifah," and I laughed silly-just the notion of Queen Latifah being called a storyteller. Well, she tells us the stories of the wonders of the ice kingdom, and shows us a polar bear who was just born-who they name Nanu, and a baby walrus named Seela. No other animal is named here except those two, and that is why the film makers follow them around over the course of the next fifteen years. They are born, learn how to catch and kill animals, follow their mothers around, and both experience loss-Nanu is forced to leave her mother one day, and Seela has to endure the death of one of her protectors. And they avoid death, etc, all because of the changing climates.
Now the stunning film capturing of the animals are their lives is amazing. The great photography of the arctic life and the snow and the landscapes are beautiful, and on the big screen they really do stick out more so than they would on video. I could have basked in these images for quite some time. i wish I saw it on a bigger screen, and not at the local art house which is a nice theatre but suffers from a small screen. The problem with "Arctic Tale" is two fold. First fold: I know all this stuff already. I know how to prevent global warming, and I know the impact that its having all over the world. For Nanu and Seela, they have been born at a time where the strict schedules that their mothers have to live with nature are changing because either the weather is too hot, or the changing of the seasons is late. They are living in a time of crisis because they have to go through extra lengths to survive. And it tries to put the audience on this massive guilt trip-trying to make us feel bad for the horrors that these wonderful animals have to go through. At least "An Inconvenient Truth" had some facts about the issue and presented us with information. This provides us with great footage, but just constantly places blame.
The second problem with the film is Queen Latifah. Her storytelling method is just plain annoying. Instead of a scientific narration, or one by Morgan Freeman which sounds scientific just because he has a great voice, the writing seems like something Latifah wrote herself. When presented with an interesting fact-that walruses rub their mustaches against each other for identification purposes, Latifah says "Those sweet 'staches aren't just for style!" And when the two polar bear cubs lallygag around when their mother bear calls them, Latifah says "When your mother's a polar bear. . . you best be going!" Other greatly written "scientific" lines include "That's just how they roll," and Everybody's up in each others business!" And of course, who can forget, after all the walrus' eat and Latifah says "Somebody starts a game of pull my flipper. . ." and then there's the walrus flatulence minute that feels like it goes on for an eternity. And then it happens again later on. In fact, "Arctic Tale" goes to extreme measures to appeal to children, even to resorting to crude humor, all to try to get them to listen to the dangers of global warming.
The soundtrack is another horrible thing in this documentary, and just adds to the loss of credibility. Classic tracks like "We Are Family" and "Celebrate" background certain scenes. There was just so much eye-rolling going on here, that all of the interesting facts and the stunning visuals were just overlooked and the annoying narration and music became the centerpiece. "Arctic Tale" could be passed on and in its place, something a little better-like the two docs I stated above-could take their place. But I can recommend it for it's visuals, so when the video comes out, you could rent it, put it on mute, and play something on a CD player-make your own score. Virtually anything is better than the sound in this.