July 25, 2007
On the Big Board
||Nice shots of the ice and animals, but unlike March of the Penguins, the animals are given names and the cute and sassy factor is heavy.
Within the past decade, movie-going audiences have become overwhelmingly receptive to documentary films. Two of the most popular - March of the Penguins and An Inconvenient Truth - were not only critical and financial successes, grossing $75 million and $23 million, respectively, both took home the Oscar for Best Documentary.
Now, in the summer of 2007, National Geographic Films and Paramount Classics are hoping to earn the same success with Arctic Tale, which sells itself as an amalgamation of the aforementioned works. It follows a walrus named Seela and a polar bear named Nanu living in the frozen Arctic, where global warming is threatening the futures of this unique animal kingdom. The film follows Seela and Nanu from birth to parenthood as they live, play and adapt to their changing environments.
Just as March of the Penguins explored the yearly journeys of emperor penguins in Antarctica and An Inconvenient Truth showed the effects of global warming on such frozen habitats, Arctic Tale hopes to entertain as well as educate audiences on a world physically outside of our reach but one that we still have the power to affect. Oscar-nominated actress Queen Latifah will lend her voice as narrator of the nature doc.
While the message of Arctic Tale is relevant and the photography dramatically and emotionally breathtaking (we witness a polar bear struggle to avoid falling into the water), the trailer suggests the subject matter is presented in a schmaltzy and juvenile manner. To give you an idea, Latifah says, “After three days of feasting on clams, somebody starts a game of pull my flipper,” after which a flatulent sound effect plays and one walrus covers its nose. This may amuse younger viewers, but adults expecting a purely informative nature documentary (similar to the Discovery Channel’s “Planet Earth” series) may be turned off.
Plus, it seems like the film is being aimed more towards kids with a title that’s similar to 2004’s animated hit, Shark Tale, and with Queen Latifah as narrator, who voiced the wooly mammoth Ellie in Ice Age: The Meltdown, which was also set in a frozen climate. Typically, documentaries gain recognition through word-of-mouth and critical praise, not marketing and commercialism. It will be interesting to see if the extra millions spent on advertising pays off.
Arctic Tale will likely have a modest run at the box office, but perhaps not the legs to become a distinguished hit. It doesn’t the advantage of a fresh concept and since adults were already enlightened on arctic animals and global warming in the past two years, they may choose to sit this one out. But the movie’s greater purpose of educating young viewers on other forms of life and the dangers of global warming will probably make it worth the price of admission. (Matthew Huntley/BOP)