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Just Average45%
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7 reviews, 18 user ratings

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Eight Below
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by brianorndorf

"The dogs have more range than Paul Walker"
3 stars

Frank Marshall’s “Eight Below” is a striking Antarctic adventure story, capturing the rich, bright beauty and the multiple dangers of the snowbound continent. Splintering into two stories, “Below” clearly belong to the struggles of the abandoned dogs, who give a more articulate performance than the human actors.

As a tracker at a remote Antarctic research base, Gerry Shepard (Paul Walker) relies on the strength and instincts of his pack of eight sled dogs to help him do his job. On a mission to take a scientist (Bruce Greenwood) to a meteor site, an accident occurs, leaving the two men and the dogs stuck in a powerful winter storm. When they finally return to the base, everyone is ordered to evacuate, and Gerry is forced to leave behind his beloved dogs. Agonized with guilt, Gerry spends the next six months trying desperately to get back to Antarctica, while the dogs struggle to survive the frosty, hungry winter alone.

As much as Disney is going to try and sneak this film past audiences as a type of lighthearted “Snow Dogs” sequel in the marketing, “Eight Below” has more in common with the old “True Life Adventure” nature series Walt Disney himself loved to produce. A remake of a 1983 Japanese film entitled “Antarctica,” “Below” is a sobering picture (sorry folks, no talking dogs here) about life and death, and to a lesser extent, about how much Paul Walker one person can stand.

Coming out of a 10-year hiatus from directing (his last picture being the dreadful “Congo”), Frank Marshall takes on the sizable challenge of bringing this wintry tale to the screen, and I can only imagine the daily struggles he faced. Marshall deals terrifically with the animal actors, taking time to allow the viewer to become familiar with their defining features and varying personalities. It’s an important step to take, since “Eight Below” soon splits abruptly into two movies: one being a dialog-free story of the dogs’ journey, and the other Gerry’s depression and desire for redemption.

It doesn’t take a genius to determine which story carries more dramatic weight. Using impeccably trained dogs, Marshall has so much more to work with on the survival side of the film. Here the filmmaker can fully take in the equally gorgeous and imposing snowy landscapes, and the absence of dialog amplifies the pure language of cinema, giving “March of the Penguins” a run for its money in terms of basking in the mystery of animal instinct. The dogs’ trek takes them through the frozen seas and icy mountaintops as they hunt for food and, in a film highlight, try to outwit the violent local predators. Through life and death (young audience members might get a little spooked here), loyalty and abandonment, Marshall cautiously defines the interaction within the pack of these gorgeous creatures, agreeably creating real drama out of their struggle. And let’s be honest, the dogs have more acting range than Walker.

With his side of the story, Walker has to deal with needlessly drawn-out scenes of despair, padding the running time to an obese two hours. Walker is good with the struggle-of-the-moment adventure sequences, but he fails to sell the more difficult arc of Gerry’s guilt. As the film moves along, the interest in Gerry’s story begins to erode quickly, partially due to failed execution (and a ridiculous pass at a love story), but mostly because the dogs are a much more compelling tale to follow.

“Eight Below” takes a lot of liberties and blows even more opportunities, but it remains a steady, fulfilling adventure.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=14012&reviewer=404
originally posted: 02/17/06 03:27:54
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User Comments

4/03/11 Florian Herbst Lousy movie, the worst is the "pilot"-girl Moon Goodblood (haven't seen lousier actress) 2 stars
3/24/08 R.W. Welch The dogs were great; the movie okay. 3 stars
12/14/07 Nan The rock in the snow was almost a joke, but we enjoyed the movie.. 4 stars
12/09/06 TJ DISNEY did it again. The best tear jerker/feel good story of the century. (So far.) 5 stars
8/05/06 Chris Wilbik Good movie! Bought it to see again 5 stars
7/05/06 GK A "family" story. 4 stars
6/07/06 Peggy Doty WORTH A LOOK 4 stars
5/22/06 Gideon Touching story 5 stars
4/29/06 Sylvia Isaac My husband and I both thought it was great. Really tugged at our hearts. 5 stars
4/25/06 Agent Sands The human characters are all bullshit. The dogs are the best actors in the movie. 3 stars
4/23/06 alien assassin Above average dog movie...certainly better than "Snow Dogs" 5 stars
4/01/06 Anna Fox Great movie--want more like it 5 stars
3/30/06 shayla this was the best movie ive ever seen 5 stars
3/02/06 Kankasaur Great analogy by OZ; Paul Walker IS the boy from "Puppy Lost His Way"! 3 stars
2/25/06 Quigley the dogs really steal the show. though walker still knows squat about acting, it's good 4 stars
2/24/06 bobbi worth seeing for the animals; however nonanimal plots are cliche ridden 4 stars
2/18/06 Chip movie was just a great touching flim 5 stars
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  17-Feb-2006 (PG)
  DVD: 20-Jun-2006



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