*** (out of 5)
February 17, 2006
Paul Walker as JERRY SMITH
Bruce Greenwood as DAVIS MCLAREN
Moon Bloodgood as KATIE
Jason Biggs as COOPER
Directed by: Frank Marshall
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
There was a time about ten years ago that live-action Disney films really stunk. However, in the past decade, they’ve come up in quality. It’s not the same as the classics from the 1950s and 1960s, but they’re getting better. “Eight Below” might have been a better movie if it were made with the sensibilities of the past, but it still is a decent family flick.
“Eight Below” takes place in Antarctica, at the bottom of the world. Researcher Davis McLaren (Bruce Greenwood) has come in to find a recently crashed meteor. He and guide Jerry Smith (Paul Walker) head out on a dogsled to find his rock. However, along the way, McLaren falls in the ice and suffers a broken leg. With a massive winter storm bearing down on them, the team evacuates, leaving the dogs for a few days.
The only problem is that those few days turn into months. Because of harsh winter storms, all travel to Antarctica is restricted, and they won’t be able to return for the dogs until the summer. For the next several months, the dogs must fend for themselves while Smith tries to organize a rescue.
Basically, you only need to ask yourself a single question before seeing this film: Are you a dog person? If the answer is no, chances are you’ll be unimpressed by the movie. It’s really not good enough to convert anyone. However, if the answer is yes, you might really like it. Still, if your answer is an emphatic yes with a lot of jumping up and down, you’ll want to take some tissues with you.
There are other strong pieces to the film, including beautiful scenery and incredible cinematography. But when it comes to acting, the dogs are the only thing saving this movie. It’s no “Old Yeller,” but it is a nice movie about the pups.
The human cast for “Eight Below” is strikingly insignificant. Paul Walker has had a rocky time trying to fit into any movie since “The Fast and the Furious.” However, like Walker’s films in the past, his lack of chemistry kills him. This lack of chemistry transcends species, considering he falls flat with the humans and the dogs in the cast.
Bruce Greenwood does a fair job, as does Walker’s love interest Moon Bloodgood. The best part of the primates in this film is Jason Biggs. Sure, he just plays a toned-down version of his character from “American Pie,” but he’s good at what he does, and it works here.
Part of Walker’s problem is that he just doesn’t act convincingly as a dog owner. We never see his grief at the thought of his dogs freezing to death in the wasteland. Instead, he gets stern looks on his face and just gets angry.
“Eight Below” is also inspired by a true story of dogs left in Antarctica after a team had to abandon them. Again, if you’re a dog fan, you’ll not want to do too much research on this. The outcome is a lot more hairy for the dogs, as you might expect. “Eight Below” has be Disney-fied considerably, but for what it is, it does push the right buttons.
A word of warning to parents – “Eight Below” is a kids movie, but it’s not for all kids. Think of it as the polar opposite of “Curious George,” in terms of what age you should take with you. This film is for kids that are a little older. It’s not for the preschool crowd. Young children in the movie have the potential of getting bored during the Paul Walker moments.
I know I did.