A smarmy score, some orgiastic farting from a herd of walruses, and a modicum of cutesy anthropomorphism from narrator Queen Latifah prove a small price to pay for this stunningly photographed narrative documentary about a year in the endangered life of Arctic ice floe. With 15 years of experience in the area, Adam Ravetch and Sarah Robertson shoot around, inside, and underneath the compromised habitat of Nanu, a polar bear cub, and Seela, an enchanting walrus calf weighing several hundred pounds, as they try to survive in hunting grounds that may lose all ice by the year 2040 if we don't mend our anti-green ways. The movie's bracing account of animal domestic life—altruistic and predatory in equal measure—and the sheer diversity of family forms (bear cubs are raised by single mothers, walruses by mothers and self-sacrificing "aunts") may be enough to place it on the evangelical right's shit list. The most heartbreaking moment comes when, two years ahead of developmental schedule, Nanu's hitherto protective mother has to scare her underprepared daughter into self-sufficiency because she can't feed them both. As agitprop alone, Arctic Tale must be doing something right: Coming out of the theater, my child threatened me with, "Shorter showers, Mom, OK?"
Walruses are the new penguins?
Opens at Metro and Meridian, Fri., Aug. 3. Rated G. 84 minutes.