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“Arctic Tale”

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By Matt Singer

IFC News

[Photo: “Arctic Tale,” Paramount Vantage, 2007]

“Arctic Tale” sounds an alarm about our society’s environmental impact on the Arctic Ocean — an alarm that sounds distinctly like a walrus fart. This mystifying film, equal parts whimsical children’s book and apocalyptic nature documentary, oscillates wildly between tones and moods and digestive functions, particularly in one outlandish scene where a pack of walruses eat a hearty meal and let ’em rip. Not since Mel Brooks’ “Blazing Saddles” has the silver screen been torn asunder by such a display of cinematic flatulence.

And this is a movie about global warming, although “Arctic Tale” never actually uses that term (the narration, written by Linda Woolverton, Mose Richards and Kristin Gore — daughter of Al Gore — prefers less divisive terminology like “increasing warmth”). The world its intrepid directors, Adam Ravetch and Sarah Robertson, have spent fifteen years recording, a world of polar bears, walruses and ice floes, is being threatened by hotter and hotter weather, and they record it all in devastating detail. But they temper that material with one of the most juvenile narratives imaginable, and they mold their raw footage into a story that is pretty clearly invented by the filmmakers in the editing room rather than captured in the wild.

This story, about a polar bear cub named Nanu and a walrus pup named Seela, sees the natural world as a Disney animator does, precociously and with a rather strange sense of morality. Nanu and Seela are given names, are followed around by a camera crew and survive in the face of increasingly bad odds. In the childhood logic of “Arctic Tale,” that makes them heroes, even as they do some horrific, ferocious things. This leads to a truly creepy sequence wherein heartwarming music plays while two of the characters eat the third. Bambi’s mom’s got nothing on this stuff.

If there was a surer filmmaking hand at the editing bay command, one might suspect that these sequences are intended to give the environmental message a bigger emotional punch. More likely, this “Baby’s First Global Warming Lesson” was a bit too horrifying for its young audience to stomach (and maybe for their parents too), and so the powers that be injected levity wherever they could, the more immature and reassuringly cuddly the better.

To a degree, my opinion is irrelevant, since “Arctic Tale” is pitched toward very small kids and I’m not one and don’t have any. But I’ve got to believe this film, however well-intentioned, will leave children unnerved and confused, particularly during those weird closing credits where children tell us how to combat global warming. (I liked the one who told me buying a hybrid would directly help polar bears.) I can just imagine the questions that await parents on their way out of the theater: “Mommy, why are the walrus farts making it hotter?”

“Arctic Tale” opens in limited release on July 25th (official site).

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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