Tuesday 21 May 2019

Cuddly tale of global warming leaves us cold

An Arctic Tale

Cert Gen

WILDLIFE documentary An Arctic Tale has noble intentions. It wants to let children know that if they nag their parents into changing to energy-efficient light bulbs and using green cars they might not inherit a world in which the polar ice caps have melted and we're all huddling on the last tiny piece of remaining land -- a lesson surely nobody could object to.

Unfortunately, the story used to illustrate this problem -- a mother polar bear and her two little cubs encountering adversity on their way to adulthood -- is so twee that the film risks infecting children with global-warming fatigue before they even reach their teens.

David Attenborough's objection to March of the Penguins was that it created an uplifting human story where there was none. Here, human narratives and even in some cases dialogue are imposed on to scenes of animals in the wild.

The narrator, Queen Latifah, gives the impression of voicing cuddly toy puppets, which she is arranging to fight for us before our bedtime. At least she doesn't try to rap.

The editing is also very questionable. Time after time the narrator sets up "battle- type" confrontations between a bear and a seal or a fox and a bird -- but in most cases the animals are not seen in the same shot. You come away wondering if they just filmed the different species on different days and then joined all the pieces into a story at the end.

Certainly it's beautifully photographed but really nothing better than I've seen a million times on the BBC and in the end the very worthy message cannot excuse the shoddy script.


The Water Horse

Cert PG

I was a bit biased about The Water Horse because I sat in a room in Monkstown drinking tea on the one hot day we had last summer while its theme tune was recorded by Sinead O'Connor and legendary producer Daniel Lanois. Strangely, I'm not included anywhere in the film's credits, but despite this ridiculous oversight, it is still an excellent children's film.

Based on a novel by Dick King-Smith, the movie tells the story of Angus MacMorrow (Alex Etel), a boy living on the coast of Scotland during the Second World War. Angus's dad is away in the navy so he's being raised by a houseful of women.

Things are fairly boring until one day he finds an egg on the shore, which hatches into a genuine mini Loch Ness monster. Angus takes the creature home, but to complicate matters the house has been taken over by a pompous army captain on the pretext that German submarines are expected to pass through the loch.

The visual effects, which are quite crucial, given the central role of the beastie, come from the same people who brought us the Lord Of the Rings trilogy and The Chronicles of Narnia and are particularly good. The young lead is winsome and waifish and there is a fine supporting cast, including a strong turn by Brian Cox as the film's present-day narrator.

Despite the potential mawkishness of a young boy and his memories of his father, The Water Horse is never gag-inducing. Director Jay Russell blends the best bits of classics like ET and Born Free to create a modern fairy tale. Oh yeah, and the theme tune is rockin'.


Definitely, Maybe

Cert 15A

YOU don't have to be a hopeless romantic to get maximum enjoyment out of director Adam Brooks' comedy, Definitely, Maybe, but it certainly helps.

Dispensing with the traditional rom-com format only to the extent that it's less a case of boy meets girl than boy meets girls, the movie concerns itself with the pre-marriage dating history of soon-to-be-divorced ad executive Will Hayes (Ryan Reynolds).

This particular trip down memory lane is prompted by awkward questions raised by his 12-year-old daughter Maya (Abigail Breslin). She's just learnt about the birds and the bees courtesy of a sex-ed class at school and wants to know how her parents got together.

It started in Madison, Wisconsin where he fell for his college sweetheart, Emily (Elizabeth Banks), and ended in New York after his idealism and ambition to become president took him to the Big Apple as part of the campaign to elect Bill Clinton. Along the way he meets quirky April (Isla Fisher) and the sophisticated Summer (Rachel Weisz). So if his soon-to-be-divorced status suggests he didn't marry Miss Right, what happened to her? And can anything be done about finding her in the present? As I said earlier, you don't have to be a hopeless romantic to get maximum enjoyment but...

Definitely, Maybe left me fairly underwhelmed, but I watched it as part of a preview audience in a packed Savoy and there was enough audible audience approval to suggest the right sort of boxes were being ticked. As he proved in Just Friends, Reynolds knows how to pack a punchline and he receives capable back-up from Weisz, Banks and the little 'un from Little Miss Sunshine, Abigail Breslin.

A release date this close to Valentine's Day tells you all you need to know about the date-movie demographic this feature is seeking so if you want to say it with celluloid this February 14, you could do worse.


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