Eight Below (PG)
reviewed by Amy Diaz
Dogs teach us valuable
lessons about family and perseverance and the importance of not being
too picky about your food in Eight Below, a Disney tale inspired by a
Yeesh, have scarier
words ever been written than “Disney tale inspired by a true story”?
Perhaps “inspirational, live-action dog movie” would give the previous
phrase a good run for its money. But, surprisingly, it’s not as bad as
you’d expect (though maybe expecting something treacley and horrible,
Dreamer for example, is the key to the not-so-bad-ness of Eight Below).
Jerry Shepherd (Paul
Walker) loves his “kids,” the eight sled dogs that make up his team in
Antarctica. Jerry’s responsibility is to guide scientists around the
snowy land at the bottom of the world. One such scientist is the
particularly eager Dr. McClaren (Bruce Greenwood). He pushes Jerry to go
out on an unplanned route and pushes him to stay past the time that’s
safe before a big storm. On the way back, naturally, it’s the
scientist’s knuckleheaded unfamiliarity with the many ways that
Antarctica can kill you that gets him injured and plunged into the icy
waters. The sled team just barely makes it back during the violent storm
and has to evacuate immediately before the weather gets worse. The
people get out but the dogs remain, tied to the stake in front of the
scientists’ base camp.
Jerry is heartsick
about leaving his team and spends his subsequent scenes trying to get
back to Antarctica — an expensive and dangerous trip, especially during
the height of the southern hemisphere’s winter — to find out what’s
happened to his dogs.
Meanwhile, in the far
more interesting part of the film, the dogs figure out what to do with
themselves alone in the coldest place on Earth. After wiggling out of
their leashes, they follow a flock of birds until they are able to
successfully catch a few. Then they mosey around some more, looking for
somewhat sheltered places to rest during storms and other things to eat
(including the remains of a beached whale carcass).
The dogs behave very
dog-like through all of this, taking some time to chase light, growling
when another dog gets a little too grabby with the food and doing a lot
of sleeping as a way to get through the frigid days without expending a
lot of energy. Because they are professional dogs, they also know how to
work together, follow a leader and — via well-timed barks and close-ups
of expressive doggie eyes — communicate things such as “you must lead
us, now” and “quit barking or you’ll scare away the birds.”
Yes, the human actors
aren’t exactly electrifying in Eight Below but the dogs keep us
relatively well entertained.
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