Monday, July 17, 2006

Movie Review: Eight Below

U.S. Release Date: //06
Running Time: 2:00
Rated: PG (Brief peril and mild language)
Cast: Paul Walker, Bruce Greenwood, Moon Bloodgood, Jason Biggs

Director: Frank Marshall
Screenplay: David DiGilio
Music: Mark Isham

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Eight Below functions on a similar level as Disney’s Homeward Bound—only this time, the dogs don’t talk; there is no cat accompaniment; and the canines have no one to return to other than their musher. Similarly, Eight Below compares to March of the Penguins, with its documentary filmmaking style, which depicts the dogs enduring the weather and the ways of the land. In every sense, the dogs are the stars of the show; the rest of the cast merely serves as a slumbering shadow behind the eight precious and powerful pups.

Gerry Shepherd (Paul Walker) is an Antarctic guide who also serves as the primary caretaker of eight sled dogs. However, when Gerry leads geologist Dr. McLaren (Bruce Greenwood) on an adventure to find a specific rock, the cold nearly claims both of their lives. With the dogs pulling the weight, the humans barely make it back to the base—only to be flown to the nearest hospital.

Once Gerry recuperates, he attempts to journey back to Antarctica to save his sled dogs from the upcoming winter. Nevertheless, the weather has worsened making travel impossible. As Gerry struggles to make it back to Antarctica, the dogs are left to fend for themselves—with all odds against them.

Walker is for the most part flat and inconsistent. Meanwhile, Jason Biggs and Moon Bloodgood play the parts of the unnecessary wisecrack and the pointless love interest respectively. Biggs is erratic, and Bloodgood is as excessive as the number of o’s in her first and last name. On the other hand, Greenwood maintains his pride. Yet, instead of taking the time to praise the human actors for their work, the most praise can be assigned to the dog trainers for their commendable accomplishments.

For any dog-lover, Eight Below is a depressing tale of Darwinism; it’s survival of the fittest—Disney style. For the younger crowd, guidance is necessary to talk them through the death sequences and help them get over the fact that the animals are chained up – outside – in a climate that reaches as low as thirty below zero. For the adults, it’s an emotive “based on a true story” production about a cluster of courageous dogs that really deserve more screen time than their human counterparts.

To parallel the film and the Iditarod, it is obvious that it is the dogs that do the work, pull the sled, and lead the way. In the same breath, it is the musher who shouts, steers, and applies the breaks. The bottom-line is: it is the human hindrance that slows the pooches’ potential to shine. If those in charge of Eight Below could have ran the race all over again, they should have kicked the musher off the sled and lost the excessive weight. (** out of ****)

© Copyright Brandon Valentine 2006