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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Like most nature documentaries, To the Arctic offers an in-depth view of its animal subjects and how they survive and thrive. Kids will learn that the frigid arctic environment is all that these animals know, and as the summer season gets longer due to global warming, the bears and walruses and caribou of the far north face starvation -- and even extinction.
The movie's overall message is to pay attention to climate change and how global warming is affecting the polar bears and other animals that call the arctic their home. Without a human push to curb the effects of global warming, the animals will be wiped out sooner than we can imagine.
Positive Role Models
Although it's always tricky to ascribe human characteristics to wildlife, the mother polar bear is clearly a selfless mama determined to keep her cubs alive, whether that means swimming longer and farther or standing up to a much bigger, much stronger male polar bear threatening to kill her cubs.
Violence & Scariness
There are a few scenes of peril and suspense as a predatory male polar bear is in pursuit of a mother polar bear and her two cubs. Also, the narration explains that baby caribou born during the migration usually don't make it to their destination and that a baby polar bear wasn't able to withstand the long distance its mother swam to look for food. A seal is caught and shared between a mother and her cubs, but audiences only see glimpses of the meat and the bloodstained bears.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Caribou give birth along a migration trail. Talk about male polar bears during mating season.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that To the Arctic is an educational 3-D nature documentary about the animals that thrive in the world's harshest climate. Filmed in IMAX, the movie puts a special emphasis on polar bears and the plight they face as global warming continues to extend the arctic summer season. There's nothing objectionable in the documentary, but some very young kids might be disturbed by the tense scenes when a male polar bear pursues a mother and her cubs or when the white cubs get bloody from eating freshly hunted seal meat. The narrator also explains that some cubs and caribou newborns have died because of the elements or starvation. Since the documentary is only 45 minutes long, it's just the right length to educate and entertain kids about life in the arctic's frozen world. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Streep, a master of tone and diction, is a wonderful narrator -- injecting the movie's fairly didactic script with the emotion and urgency necessary to convey just how dire the arctic situation is. With a running time of just 45 minutes, even younger children will be able to follow along as To the Arctic introduces audiences to the industrious mother cub who can sense danger and will stop at nothing -- even growling at a much larger, much hungrier alpha male -- to protect and feed her babies.
Thanks to the participation of Paul McCartney, To the Arctic's score is full of poignant, familiar songs that match the dazzling visuals (all of that white landscape punctuated by the swimming or galloping animals) and the at times heart-wrenching story of the animals desperate to survive in their unforgiving surroundings. This isn't an uplifting story -- the arctic is facing full-on extinction by 2050 if we humans don't help stop global warming -- but it's an important one that will stick with kids long before Streep has uttered her last dulcet-toned sentiment.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.