The people behind “March of the Penguins” have put together another endearing story of life in the coldest place on earth. This time, it is the story of two newborns, a polar bear called Nanu and a walrus named Seela. “What seems forbidding to us is home to them,” says narrator Queen Latifah, whose affectionate tone brings warmth to the frozen landscape. The story is not as linear or involving as “Penguins,” and it is overcast with more forboding, as the effects of climate change pose a greater threat to these new lives than temperature or predators.
Nanu and her brother are born in a cave made of ice. Six months later, they poke their noses out into the sunlight to see the world for the first time. Their mother teaches them how to take care of themselves, even when they would prefer to play. Bears are loners. They have to be — male bears will eat the young if they get a chance. But Seela and her family of walruses stay together and watch out for each other. Seela is cared for not just by her mother but by her “auntie,” another female.
It’s a little sugary. Even the ice is anthropomorphized in this story. It “struggles to re-form.” And it gets overly cute, with a soundtrack featuring pop standards like “We Are Family” and “Celebrate.” Is this the arctic or a middle school party? But the footage is touching, especially when we see the difficult choices these young creatures must face. Some are just a part of growing up, but others, as when the usual hiding places no longer exist due to global warming, are unprecedented. The grown-up animals have tough choices, too, and it is moving to see their dedication and sacrifice.
Parents should know that, though rated G, this movie has some sad deaths, including a very cute little bear. Some audience members may also be disturbed by the scenes of animals killing and eating each other and by animal parents who abandon or even prey on their children. A good rule to follow is not to get too attached to any animal unless it has a character name. The movie has some potty humor and some mild references to procreation and childbirth.
Families who see this movie should talk about how families of all species must find ways to teach children how to take care of themselves. Check out some library books about polar bears and walruses and see what the National Geographic’s website has to say about ways that kids can help preserve the arctic environment. http://www.arctictalemovie.com/
Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy March of the Penguins, Winged Migration, and Disney classics “The Living Desert” and “The Vanishing Prairie.”