Genre: CG Animation
Director: Aaron Woodley
Cast: Jeremy Renner, James Franco, Heidi Klum, Anjelica Huston, Alec Baldwin, Omar Sy
Runtime: 1 hr 33 mins
Released By: Shaw Organisation
Opening Day: 28 November 2019
Synopsis: In the beautiful, remote Arctic village of TAIGASVILLE, a tiny fox named SWIFTY has big dreams of becoming a “top dog” : celebrity husky courier dogs—and town heroes—that deliver life-saving goods in the harsh and frigid tundras. Swifty and his ragtag group of friends must band together to fight an epic battle. It’s only when Swifty embraces his natural abilities that he is able to save Taigasville—and the Arctic—from utter destruction.
There is an unmistakeable pro-environmental message in ‘Arctic Justice’, which sees a ragtag band of heroes from the isolated Arctic town of Taigasville aim to foil the nefarious plans of an evil walrus. The said walrus Otto Von Walrus (John Cleese) is building a powerful mechanical drill to penetrate the ice in order to unleash some Biolipadium Aradithic Dipsodium (aka B.A.D.) gas from below the surface that will cause the polar caps to melt (read: global warming), so before the Taigasvillians end up practising their dog paddle for good, it is up to Swifty (Jeremy Renner) and his friends to stop Otto.
Swifty’s heroism is part of his coming-of-age story that is told from his perspective. An anthropomorphic fox who wants to be noticed (as opposed to disappearing almost entirely into the snow, thanks to his white coat of fur), Swifty dreams of being one of the town’s postal agency’s elite couriers, also known as ‘Top Dogs’. Because of the geography of the town, its people rely on these couriers to obtain supplies and trade goods, and have therefore come to idolise the three huskies who provide the service like celebrities. Unfortunately for Swifty, he has yet to reach the weight requirement to be ‘Top Dog’ – that, and the fact that his caribou boss Magda (Angelica Huston) is biased against a fox taking up that role.
Undeterred, Swifty decides to personally deliver a package for Jade (Heidi Klum), a female orange fox whom he has had a serious crush on since he was little. After training in some of the top engineering schools in the world, Jade has returned to Taigasville, and is now unknowingly doing Otto’s bidding by building the very parts for his drill of destruction. It is through delivering one of these parts that Swifty stumbles upon Otto’s lair, and meets his army of puffins who are just as klutzy as the Minions in ‘Despicable Me’ but not quite as cute. And in case you’re wondering, much of what happens next unfolds as predictably as you would expect it to.
It is somewhat unrealistic to demand that ‘Arctic Justice’ display the same sort of wit or sophistication as them Pixar or Dreamworks’ films; after all, it hails from a group of relatively little-known production companies with much, much less experience than their Hollywood veterans. At the helm is Canadian director Aaron Woodley, who has only one other animated film under his belt (anyone heard of 2016’s ‘Spark: A Space Tail’?) and let’s just say the experience, or lack thereof, shows. Not only are the visuals not quite as vivid as you’d be used to, the scenes lack spark and often come across curiously uninvolving.
Thankfully, there is some fun to be had with the wry jokes courtesy of writers Bob Barlen and Cal Brunker, both of whom have honed their sense of humour through other independent animations as ‘The Nut Job 2’ and ‘Son of Bigfoot’. They and Cleese are clearly enjoying themselves with turning Otto into a hammy supervillain, and the movie is most enjoyable when Otto gets diabolical. Oh yes, Cleese and Otto easily steal the show from the rest of his other cast and character members, including James Franco and his dopey bird Lemmy, Alec Baldwin and his helpful polar bear P.B., and Omar Sy and Klum and their pair of conspiracy-minded otters.
If you need a harmless diversion for the kids this school holidays, and have already watched ‘Frozen II’, you can probably do worse than ‘Arctic Justice’. It is certainly better than your run-of-the-mill Saturday cartoon, and it also packs a positive message about paying attention to the environment, as well as another empowering one about believing in yourself. As long as you tell yourself that you should not expect something with the same polish as those big-budget Hollywood types, you’ll find this a reasonable way to keep the kids entertained for one-and-a-half hours.
(Not quite Disney/Pixar or Dreamworks quality, this otherwise reasonably diverting animation, with a deliciously diabolical voice performance by John Cleese, is good enough to keep the kids entertained)
Review by Gabriel Chong