Is Eight Below the beginning of a new genre of Disney films? Disney already pumps out inspirational real-life sports movies (Glory Road the most recent), and it's a surprise they haven't made more inspirational films about true animals. Eight Below, based on the Japanese smash hit Nankyoku Monogatari, inspired by a Japanese expedition in 1958 is not as inspirational as it could be, only because director Frank Marshall (Congo, Alive) spends too much time with the humans, and there is too much time wasted setting up the story.
The dogs are stranded when a huge storm hits Antarctica. Their trainer Gerry Shepherd (Paul Walker, Into the Blue, Timeline) is forced to leave them behind after evacuating geologist Davis McLaren (Bruce Greenwood, The World's Fastest Indian, Capote). McLaren was in Antarctica searching for a meteorite from Mercury. He has a broken leg and is suffering from hypothermia, and there is only enough time on the plane for the humans at the United States base. Shepherd reluctantly agrees, believing that he will be able to return immediately, The storm worsens, stranding the dogs, and winter arrives, making it too dangerous to return to rescue them.
The most effect moments in Eight Below are with the dogs. They have no food or water, and must deal with the blistering cold as well as predators. The dogs work as a team to scavenge food and survive the elements, and Marshall does an impressive job with getting the dogs to "act." There are some big problems though. Although the screenwriter David DiGillo tries to make sure the viewer can identify each one, only two truly seem memorable. The rest are generic sled dogs. Eight below should focus completely on the dogs. Instead, it jumps back and forth between Shepherd's attempts to mount a rescue effort, and highlights the most inspiring/scary/sad portion of their journey.
Unfortunately, Walker is not the best actor. He works well in action-oriented films, but Eight Below requires him to show emotion, which he does with some difficulty. And the film simply spends too much time on the humans. This movie is about the dogs, not about the humans, and could have done without the extended introduction. By not spending extended amounts of time with the dogs, Marshall hits the highs and lows only, forgoing much of what happens to them in between. This has the unfortunate effect of taking much of the emotion out of the movie.
|Haro Rates It: Not That Good.|
|2 hours, Rated PG for some peril and mild language.|
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