Monday, 28 September 2020
Eight Below
Written by Sandra Fitzpatrick   
Sunday, 26 February 2006 19:59

Eight Below – Inspired by a tr…Oh never mind!

I’ve heard a lot lately about attendance being low at movie theatres across Canada and the U.S. With market studies and research circulating as to why this might be much of the blame is being placed on the “home theatre system”. This could be partly true, but the ever-rising prices at Blockbuster tell me different. When it costs as much to rent a movie as to go out and see one, the answer must lie elsewhere. This weekend I realized that it isn’t rentals keeping people out of the theatre, but simply a lack of movies that anyone wants to see!

As I perused the paper for movie listings I noticed that only two films opened this weekend. An hour long animated film called Doogal looked cute, but more like something I would watch over Christmas on YTV. The other, Running Scared, might have been ok but a little heavy to fit my mood. So, I decided to check out Eight Below, which is getting a lot more media attention than I ever thought it would.

The story is your basic Wonderful World of Disney material, designed to provide maximum emotional impact and heart-felt drama. Jerry Shepard (Paul Walker) is a survival guide on an Antarctic research mission. His friend Cooper (Jason Biggs) is the comedic relief expert, while Katie (Moon Bloodgood) is the romantic interest specialist. As you can tell, I don’t think the humans in this story are very important. The true stars are a team of eight beautiful sled dogs and Jerry’s real role in this movie is “Man Who Loves Dogs”. Like all good Disney movies the focus is on the animals.

Once the humans do their job of getting the dogs out to the arctic, a huge storm threatens to hit. Jerry and the others are forced to fly out but there isn’t room for the dogs, so they are left to fend for themselves. Cue: “tears”. The dogs are probably thinking “We’re Free! We’re Free!” as they quickly adapt to pack life and make great plans for food and shelter. Cue: “cheers”. It is so much fun to watch the parts of the film that focus on these courageous dogs and the ingenuity they display to survive.

Meanwhile, the audience is also forced to watch Paul Walker trying to act his way back to the dogs with inspiring speeches. He should just hop into his Fast and the Furious car, and drag race the storm to rescue them. Let’s face it - Paul is fine in action flicks, but isn’t the one to carry a drama. It could have been worse though if Cuba Gooding Junior was the star. I can picture it now “Snow Dogs 2 – Antarctic Escapade”.

The presentation of the film is nice, showcasing the chill landscape. Frank Marshall is a better producer than director, but his short directing credits do include the 1993 film Alive which featured a similar icy wilderness as Eight Below. Now there’s an idea! Paul Walker’s helicopter could have crashed forcing the humans to commit murder and cannibalism, inter-cut with comparisons to the dogs thriving in the wilderness. That could have provided some interesting discussion topics afterward, and at least the humans would have been interesting!

For those who are fooled by the words “Inspired by a true story” don’t be. I don’t want to ruin the magic, but the true story apparently took place in the 1950’s, involved a Japanese research team, and seven of the nine dogs died. What a downer! Leave it to Hollywood to change history for a happy ending.

In conclusion Eight Below is a competent action drama, suitable for animal lovers and family viewing. But it should have focused exclusively on the wonderful cast of dogs.

I give it 6 out of 10 stars.