Review in a Hurry: A Tale of two cuties (the animal-kingdom kind), this doc-fiction hybrid follows camera-ready critters as they face a cruel and changing world. Comparisons to recent nature pics are inevitable. And no, it doesn’t stand up to March of the Penguins or soar like Winged Migration, but this family-friendly flick does manage the happy feat of raising eco-awareness.
The Bigger Picture: Surprisingly, global warming is still a polar-izing issue for some, but for most of us the scientific evidence is clear: We’re melting, we’re melting! Indeed, this National Geographic production gets props for bringing pro-environmentalism to a younger generation, but then loses points for sometimes panda-ring to the kiddies.
The Arctic adventure begins with the births of a cuddly polar bear cub, Nanu, and a cute walrus pup, Seela. In parallel narratives, the young’uns forage for food, battle predators, mature, mate and reproduce. We could break into a jubilant chorus of “Circle of Life” if the threat to their existence—the disappearing ice caps—weren’t so ominous and imminent.
The photography is often amazing, and certain scenes cause a catch in the throat—e.g., the death of Nanu’s brother. But directors Adam Ravetch and Sarah Robertson don’t always trust their material and cheese up some sequences for easy giggles. Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family” suddenly blares on the soundtrack as a horde of walruses cavort on the ice. And after gorging themselves on clams, they fart and then fart some more (the walruses, that is, not Sister Sledge).
As the “Storyteller,” Queen Latifah provides warm, friendly narration of the script cowritten with Al’s daughter, Kristen Gore. But purists will complain that the filmmakers have cheated by using several animals for the “roles” of Nanu and Seela. (Yes, it’s a shocking revelation—movies, even documentaries, are manipulative!) But if the story makes the ecological impacts more understandable to kids and gets them “thinking green,” then its job here is done—and done well.
The 180—a Second Opinion: If you’re a gas-guzzling, seal-clubbing, tree-cutting Gore-hater who can’t handle the inconvenient truth, you’ll probably consider this just another tall Tale, so skip it and go strip-mining.