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Arctic Tale fuses fact, fiction

Polar bears frolic across the snow-covered tundra while a pack of walruses forage for food beneath the icy surface of the Arctic Ocean. Halfway around the world, human beings begin to kill these Arctic animals.

Well, that is what the producers of the newest documentary, Arctic Tale have tried to impress upon viewers, anyway.

Since the debut of the 2005 nature film, March of the Penguins, studios around the world have frenzied to release more creature features filled with Arctic natives. Each film features dwindling ice caps and the dangerous effects of global warming.

The latest of these National Geographic documentaries mixes fact with fiction to entertain and inform. Narrated by Queen Latifah and backed by a cheesy soundtrack, Arctic Tale contains stunning shots of the Arctic and “jokes” synchronized with the scenes.

The movie follows newborn polar bear cub, Nanu, and the walrus calf, Seela, as they grow from infants to full-grown predators while learning about the often dangerous and cruel world they have entered. From the hunter to the hunted, these babies thrive beneath the protection of their mothers and eventually learn to live on their own.

While March of the Penguins was serious and purely educational, Arctic Tale consists of frames collected by director Sarah Robertson and her crew over a period of six years spent in the area. A moviegoer might be led to believe that the filmmakers were able to follow Nanu and Seela and easily gain footage to which they could add a narration.

Though the directors claim this film to be a ‘wildlife adventure’, it still stands firm as a documentary in disguise. Perhaps those in of the script thought that throwing in tacky jokes (the most memorable being a montage of gaseous walruses) would distract moviegoers from the true nature of the film.

Despite the ridiculousness of Queen Latifah’s commentary, Arctic Tale still gains merit through the filmmaking that captured both the Arctic scenery and the wildlife. The movie relates the dangers of global warming, which now effects the environment in the frozen tundra, melting ice earlier than usual, and forcing both Seela and Nanu to change their courses in life.

The fact that the environment of Nanu and Seela changes dramatically impresses an obvious enough message without Latifah’s play-by-play narration or the kids during the end credits suggesting tips to keep the Arctic whole. Audiences can easily presume that Nanu will experience difficulty hunting on the thin ice; the constant narration seems unnecessary.

So, beautiful scenery notwithstanding, Arctic Tale has become another documentary too torn between a meaningful message and pure ‘nature fiction.’

Appropriate for viewers of all ages, Arctic Tale, opens Aug. 17, though release may be limited. For show times at local theaters, visit
Fandango.

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