2006 - PG - 120 Mins.
|Director: Frank Marshall
|Producer: Todd Lieberman
|Written By: David DiGilio
|Starring: Paul Walker, Jason Biggs, Bruce Greenwood, Moon Bloodgood
|Review by: Harrison Cheung
|Official Site: www.8belowmovie.com
Directed by veteran and long time Spielberg protégé, Frank Marshall (‘Alive,’ ‘Congo,’ ‘Arachnophobia’) returns to the ice and snow to deliver a family-friendly action movie that is reminiscent of Disney classics such as ‘White Fang.’
Based on a true story, ‘Eight Below’ is set during a fierce Antarctic winter. When an intrepid team of explorers and scientists on a research mission-survival guide Jerry Shepard (Paul Walker), his best friend and cartographer Cooper (Jason Biggs) and the rugged geologist Davis (Bruce Greenwood) --just narrowly escape a fatal accident, thanks to their steadfast team of eight skilled sled dogs. Forced to evacuate, the men must leave the beloved dogs behind in the frozen wilds--with a promise they will return. But when the storm of the century approaches, cutting off all means of travel, the dogs are stranded.
As the intelligent, courageous dogs--including noble pack leader Maya, rambunctious rebel Shorty and rising young alpha-in-training Max--fight to make it through the most unforgiving winter on the planet, the heartbroken Jerry is driven to mount a seemingly impossible rescue mission, aided by a beautiful and adventurous bush pilot, Katie (Moon Bloodgood). Held together only by unwavering bonds of friendship, the humans and the dogs alike make a remarkable journey of grit, endurance and belief to find one another again in this spectacular but perilous land.
Paul Walker is often like the blonde equivalent to Keanu Reeves, with a Valley Guy delivery and a range of emotions that run from A-to-B. But recently, he’s been playing to his strengths with the surprisingly entertaining ‘Running Scared’ and now ‘Eight Below.’ The ‘good-natured jock’ suits him as he stars as the mission guide who cares very much for his eight dogs. Walker’s association with Disney goes way back to the dreadful surfer dude flick, ‘Meet the Deedles,’ so it’s interesting that he’s returned to Disney (most actors start with Disney) in this family-friendly adventure that looked very cold to shoot.
British Columbia subs for Antarctica in this movie. Coincidentally, the location was close to where Frank Marshall shot his other “lost in frozen tundra” Disney adventure, ‘Alive,’ which starred Ethan Hawke who also starred in ‘White Fang.’ After Walker is separated from his beloved dogs, ‘Eight Below’ splits into two – we watch Walker desperately lobby for money to return to the Antarctic, and we watch as the dogs intelligently figure out how to survive without their human providers. The dogs practically steal the movie from their human cast as the movie is often about how the dogs survived for 6 months in the harshest winter environment. Of course, only a Disney movie would make a CGI killer seal, though the audience is forewarned when Walker’s character comments that leopard seals are more leopard than seal.
The movie has scenes of grimness and survival – parents should expect some sad moments – and like any good Disney movie, there’s plenty of playful, innocent chemistry between Walker and his pilot, Katie. It's also a little slow at times -- for moments that illustrate the desolation of the Antarctic landscape, but ‘Eight Below’ is a well told, feel good story that should leave you marveling at the spirit of determination and survival – both human and dog.