Film Reviews

EIGHT BELOW

By • Feb 17th, 2006 •

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Quote: Those penguins didn’t have the personal star power of Max, Maya, or Paul Walker.

I’ve been to Antarctica. I’ve seen the penguins. The snow is not pristine but covered with poop. Penguins smell. The icebergs are awesome. Mankind has not conquered every aspect of Nature yet.

From an Antarctica research base, Jerry Shepherd (Paul Walker) agrees to guide a scientist David McLaren (Bruce Greenwood) looking for a rare meteorite from Mercury. He has come too late in the season, so Gerry has to take McLaren and all his equipment by dog sled. The eight dogs are tough, experienced, and love their work. When McLaren falls through the ice, Max, the lead dog, heroically risks his own life to save him. But does Max know it?

As the weather starts to turn foul and a fierce storm is fast approaching, McLaren asks Jerry to delay leaving until he finds his rock. He finds his rock and then falls again, breaking his leg. Reaching the research base, there is an emergency evacuation due to the weather and the condition of Jerry and McLaren. Jerry leaves the dogs chained outside since Katie, the pilot (Moon Bloodgood),agrees to go back in three hours for the dogs.

Research team member Cooper (Jason Biggs) is the resident buffoon. Biggs should have left his hairdresser chained to the dogs. His hairdo was just as cruel as leaving brave dogs out in the cold to die.

Suffering from severe frostbite, Jerry wakes up days later in a hospital. No one was able to go back for the dogs. The dogs are certain to die in the severe weather, without food and water, and being tightly chained. Even though McLaren was saved by the dogs and won acclaim for finding the rock, he doesn’t care about the dogs starving to death.

I’m shocked dog lovers – all over the world – did not mount a huge campaign to save these dogs, if this movie was indeed “inspired” by a true event. I did some research after reading a travel magazine article on people with pets who answered a survey. Do you know that people think more often about their pet then their spouse? People spend more money on their pet’s medical care than themselves. People would save their pet over a human – even if they are related to the person in peril. In this last case scenario, I am happy to report neither my husband nor son has a pet to jeopardize my survival in a catastrophe.

Do you know why RV’s are so popular? Because people can not live without their pets. I’ve now heard that, in Las Vegas, for $25 an hour, you can hire someone to play with your pet.

The film alternates between the dogs’ instinct to survive and Jerry’s months-long attempt to rescue the dogs. The dogs break their chains and the adventure begins with each dog given a personality and a scene. Everyone at the screening agreed Max had the most interesting character arc. Dave DiGilo’s screenplay (adapted from a Japanese film) is thrilling and engaging. Nothing beats the gorgeous photography. Yes, I yelped every time the number of days the dogs were left to fend for themselves kept appearing on the screen.

Paul Walker is not Ben Affleck or Jason Biggs. I’m a fan and I even liked INTO THE BLUE. Walker has wisely avoided romantic comedies and yet, if Heath Ledger can make the transition, so will Paul Walker. You can bet on this.

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