The heroes in these parts are the Top Dogs, big husky canines that deliver the mail. Swifty dreams of becoming one, even though he has none of their bulk or power. His best pal PB (a polar bear voiced by Alec Baldwin) tries to keep him grounded, but Swifty is a dreamer – like 90 per cent of the boy heroes in children’s animation. Heidi Klum (yes, that one) voices the love interest, a comely red fox with a huge engineering brain. John Cleese does the bad guy – a walrus with a plan to drill the Arctic and accelerate global warming. James Franco squawks as a bird-brained albatross.
I’m not qualified to say how much of this might connect with a modern child’s worldview: delivering the mail is an important job, but an unusual aspiration for a movie hero. On the other hand, much of it connects to some of the anxieties children now grow up with, such as global warming and industries that despoil the earth. The mistake is to think being right on is enough to paper over the project’s lack of a good script.
The film is a co-production between two studios specialising in family-oriented computer imagery – one in Canada, the other in Dubai. There’s no reason such a diverse partnership couldn’t work, although it’s hard enough to do good work in just one place.
Pixar and Disney and other Hollywood studios can afford to create a centralised hot-house environment, with strong creative leadership, even as they farm work out around the world. Arctic Justice doesn’t seem to have that core of creativity.
It’s more like a compendium of familiar ideas bolted together and painted white – a snow job, in other words.