Review: Eight Below (2006)

Note: This article was originally published in Technician on February 17, 2006.


Eight cool dogs, one mediocre film

The first rule of studio filmmaking: If it made money once, it's worth doing again and again. It hasn't even been a month since Disney released Glory Road, but that doesn't faze the production company, which seems intent on capitalizing on every "inspirational true life event."

Disney's Eight Below claims to be "the most amazing story of [insert feel-good word here] ever told." Strange, I thought the last half dozen movies were supposed to be that too.

Poor marketing aside, Eight Below has the strongest plot concept of this type of film in years. Rather than focusing on people overcoming incredible obstacles, it revolves around a team of eight sled dogs that are left to fend for themselves in Antarctica during the winter. Their owner, Gerry Shepherd (Paul Walker), does everything in his power to get back to Antarctica to save them, but will he make it in time?

What do you think?

Paul Walker proves he might have talent after all, and Jason Biggs is perfect as the comic relief, but the movie isn't really about them. It's about Max, Maya and six other sled dogs as they brave the elements for the entire winter season. The dogs are by far the most interesting characters, and at times manage to even show more emotion than their human counterparts. If animals could win Oscars, these canines would be in the running.

Unfortunately, though this story had great potential, its execution is lacking. Too much time is spent on the human elements of the story instead of concentrating on what really makes it worth watching -- how the dogs survived. Often, and for no obvious reason, weeks of their plotline are left unaccounted for. For many people, this will not pose a major problem, but for others it will require an impossible amount of disbelief to be accepted.

Eight Below has a solid premise and could have been excellent. Though, on the whole, it's a decent kids' flick, the movie won't do much for people looking to get a realistic look at how near impossible feats like this are accomplished. Instead of falling into its usual trap of taking its stories too seriously, Disney has failed to give these dogs the respect their story deserves.