SRP $29.99 1.85:1(16:9) DOLBY DIGITAL 5.1 PARAMOUNT

Riding the coattails of "MARCH OF THE PENGUINS," "ARCTIC TALE" misses everywhere that one succeeded.  While youngsters will certainly enjoy the tale as it unfolds, those expecting it to be in the same league as the superior "Penguins" film will be extremely disappointed.

To begin with, one of the things that made "MARCH OF THE PENGUINS" so compelling, was the fact one felt so much empathy for these animals and their unadulterated situation. It was hard not to be upset at filmmakers for "not jumping in" to save penguins where they might have. In "ARCTIC TALE," not only do filmmakers "not stand back," but they actually have created entire scenarios for the animals, subjecting them to risk, and the viewer to feeling extremely patronized.

Queen Latifah has a pleasant enough sounding voice, but it's not captivating like Morgan Freeman is, and the dialogue she's been given, is often embarrassing to hear. The filmmakers are obviously trying "hard" for laughs, but they're forced and really, really bad.

The narrative follows two separate stories, one involving a mother polar bear and her twin cubs, and another story around a baby walrus and its aunt.

While one can't help but be drawn to these animals, they deserve better stories than what's told here. Why aren't their own real-life situations of survival enough to document? It's frustrating to find these filmmakers were either trying to save money, or just milk an audience with what they offer here.

PARAMOUNT has provided a 1080p/MPEG 4 transfer with the correct 1.85:1 aspect ratio for the hd-dvd transfer and with 16:9 enhancement for the dvd.  Colors are solid on both formats, with the hd-dvd offering deeper blacks and grays. Both formats have a surprising amount of grain, but it's more prevalent on the dvd, but not to the point of diminishing the overall quality of the image.  While the dvd is sharp, the hd-dvd shines in darker scenes, and with greater overall detail.

PARAMOUNT has provided a Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 mix for the hd-dvd and standard Dolby Digital 5.1 mix for the dvd.  Both are adequate, but unremarkable. They offer a narration-driven mix, focusing on the center channel, with surrounds emphasizing the music and occasional effects. The surrounds kick in with impact during one storm, but one wishes the mix was more aggressive throughout.  The dynamic range is fine on both, with notably deeper bass on the hd-dvd.

There are some short featurettes thrown in, and the theatrical trailer is included in high-definition on the hd-dvd.