By Sandie Angulo Chen,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Strong voice cast can't save bland animated adventure.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Viewers learn a bit about tundra animals like elk, caribou, arctic fox, etc. They'll also hear about the negative impact of global warming and rising temperatures.
Positive messages include trusting your friends, being honest, asking for help when you need it. Also promotes teamwork, collaboration, caring for the environment.
Positive Role Models
Swifty is ambitious and works hard to take over deliveries. Jade is intelligent and kind. Lemmy and PB are loyal friends.
Violence & Scariness
Puffins intimidate other animals. Peril/danger: Animals are taken hostage and almost lowered into boiling water. A cage crashes through a wall. Character threatens town with big, scary-looking drill. One character pushes another, throws a pipe on him. Puffins spray poisonous gas to knock characters out. Explosion. Weapons that fire snowballs. Punching, slapstick squabbles/incidents. A character throws up. Ominous music.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Two different sets of animal couples embrace and kiss briefly.
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"Freaks," "poopy," "freaking out," "screw up." Belching, farting.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A character acts in a way that suggests a hangover. Characters hold drinks served in coconut shells and reference having a drink.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Arctic Dogs is an animated adventure about Swifty (voiced by Jeremy Renner), an ambitious artic fox who hopes to be a Top Dog in his isolated small town's revered mail-delivery company. Most of the other characters are fellow arctic animals who must rely on the brave dogs to deliver their supplies. There's some peril and cartoonish violence, mostly involving a villainous walrus and his puffin goons who make threats, spray poisonous gas, and abduct characters. No one is hurt, although there's some slapstick physical humor, weapons that fire snowballs, and a scary-looking drill. Animal characters kiss/embrace briefly, and there are subtle references to drinking. The story doesn't get too heavy, but there are positive messages about teamwork and conservation. The all-star cast includes Heidi Klum, John Cleese, Omar Sy, James Franco, and Anjelica Huston.
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What's the Story?
ARCTIC DOGS follows Swifty (voiced by Jeremy Renner), a white arctic fox who feels invisible in the snowy tundra town of Taigasville. Swifty grows up idolizing the town's most popular creatures: the Arctic Blast Delivery Service's (ABDS) three Top Dogs (Duke, Dakota, and Dusty). They pull the mail sleds and deliver all the packages in the isolated community. Swifty grows up to work for the ABDS, with dreams of getting promoted to Top Dog. When Duke (Michael Madsen), Dakota (Laurie Holden), and Dusty (Donny Falsetti) go missing, Swifty steps up to deliver the mail, including that of his old friend/lifelong crush, Jade (Heidi Klum), who now does remote mechanical repairs. What Jade doesn't know -- but Swifty soon discovers -- is that she's building and fixing parts for Otto Van Walrus (John Cleese), a bitter walrus who has a gang of puffin assistants and nefarious plans.
Is It Any Good?
Despite an impressive voice cast, this snowy animal adventure is disappointing; it feels more suited to a shorter TV or streaming special than a feature release. Even the initial premise is shaky: The Top Dogs aren't Iditarod-style racers, they're mail carriers, so it's unclear why they're such celebrities when the whole town is full of community helpers who are just as important to life in Taigasville. The voice acting is fine (although Klum isn't as expressive as her co-stars), but there's no propulsive music or exciting adventure sequences to set this movie apart.
Younger (single-digit-age) viewers may forgive the underwhelming narration and animation to focus on the sillier characters, like the kooky puffins and Swifty's workplace pals, Lemmy the albatross (James Franco) and PB the voice-of-reason polar bear (Alec Baldwin). But older kids and parents who are used to more layered, musical, and exciting animated fare will wonder what audiences the filmmakers were targeting. Sure, there's an environmental message to be extracted, but it's tacked on rather than woven in, and Swifty simply isn't likable enough to carry the story.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about talking-animal movies. Why are they popular, particularly with younger kids? How does Arctic Dogs compare with some of your favorites?
Are there any characters you consider role models? What character strengths do they display in the story?
What are the movie's messages about the environment? What steps can you and your family take to help the environment?
How does the Taigasville community come together at the end of the movie? What positive changes do they make?
- In theaters: November 1, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: February 4, 2020
- Cast: Jeremy Renner, James Franco, Alec Baldwin
- Director: Aaron Woodley
- Studio: Open Road Films
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Cats, Dogs, and Mice, Friendship, Wild Animals
- Run time: 93 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some mild action and rude humor
- Last updated: April 29, 2023
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