ARCTIC TALE (Adam Ravetch, Sarah Robertson). 84 minutes. Opens Friday (August 3). Rating: NNN
After spending more than six years filming Arctic wildlife, married directors Adam Ravetch and Sarah Robertson must have thought they had the next March Of The Penguins on their hands, or, at the very least, a live-action Happy Feet. But while the film's technical achievements are awe-inspiring, the rest is par for the nature doc course.
The National Geographic project focuses on a newborn polar bear and a baby walrus as they struggle to survive in a rapidly changing environment. (Shades of An Inconvenient Truth are deepened by the presence of co-writer Kristin Gore .)
Against the intimidating landscape, various animals go through the usual hunting and mating rituals. For a family-friendly film, there's a surprising level of brutality as creatures die, fight and abandon each other.
Jumping on the celebrity narration trend, Arctic Tale enlists Queen Latifah as storyteller. Where Morgan Freeman provided gravitas for March, Latifah delivers sass. It's amusing to hear that the walruses are "all up in each other's business," but the cutesy slang feels more appropriate for an animated film.
The same goes for the odd soundtrack choices, which range from a tired We Are Family-set segment on walrus flatulence to a sublime ocean scene scored to the Shins.