The studios that brought audiences An Inconvenient Truth (Paramount Classics) and March of the Penguins (National Geographic Films) combine the pungent message of global warming with a youthful, adventurous story, birthing a documentary for both parents and their children. After 15 years of vigorous filming in the Arctic Circle, husband-and-wife team Adam Ravetch and Sarah Robertson have amalgamated musical numbers, several animated — yet real — Arctic “characters,” and a comical narration by diva Queen Latifah to create an environmental documentary sans the yawning academic feel.
Arctic Tale follows the early lives of Seela, a female walrus pup, and Nanu, a feisty polar bear cub. In their first stages on Earth, both animals lead similar family-oriented lives as young and treasured creatures of their kin, sheltered by their mothers’ care for years. Capturing animal behavior never before seen on film, Ravetch and Robertson highlight the humanlike behavior — physical and emotional — of the animals, quickly turning them into audience companions rather than cute, playful pets. The conjured sympathy for the fellow beings help to convey the catastrophic reality of these creatures’ melting world.
But while children will enjoy the witty narration and the cinematic trip to the zoo, the global warming message will be lost in the absence of any explanation. And though adults will grasp the implications, they might be disappointed by the cinematography, lackluster compared to the gentle elegance and gasp-worthy compositions of March of the Penguins.
However, despite Arctic Tale's shortcomings, one that imagines Arctic doc-tale pioneers Nanook and Flaherty — 85 years after their colorful, scripted debut — would be pleased.