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Overall Rating

Awesome: 13.33%
Worth A Look: 28.33%
Pretty Bad: 13.33%
Total Crap: 0%

7 reviews, 18 user ratings

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Eight Below
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by Erik Childress

"Never Work With Children, Animals Or Paul Walker"
3 stars

Every few years Walt Disney takes the “On Ice” idea to the big screen. You may recall White Fang (1991), Iron Will (1994) or Ice Princess (2005); all relating the treacherous journeys of characters usually involving an animal or Kim Cattrall to guide them through. Perhaps the best of the lot (released through Disney-outlet Touchstone) was Alive, the true story of the Uruguayan rugby team who crashed in the Andes and wound up eating their dead to survive. It’s director, Frank Marshall, hasn’t directed a feature since the lambasting known as Congo, but is back now with Eight Below, (a fact so low-key I had no idea until the day before the screening.) It’s another “inspired-by” inspirational true story with animals and snow that works when it sticks to that. The other half is populated by Paul Walker. Cheap shot maybe, but Eight Below proves beyond a reasonable doubt that he is a walking Botox laboratory, devoid of any screen presence or the necessary emotional projection to sell this film.

On an Antarctic outpost, guide Gerry Shepherd (Walker) loves his eight sled dogs and they love him. The End. Actually it all begins when Bruce Greenwood’s scientist is transported to the bottom of the Earth in search of a little black rock in the snow. Accompanying him is a pilot and former love interest (Moon Bloodgood, whose name and body just screams Maxim Top 100), of Gerry's who will be around to smile and test sweater strengths. Despite information being withheld and the weather approaching record hazards, Gerry and the dogs lead Bruce Greenwood: Meteorite Hunter through the rough terrain filled with thin ice and invisible glacier barriers to complete his grant-funded project. A near tragedy and frostbite intervene forcing the team to evacuate their base after their return, leaving the eight dogs in a position that will have PETA screaming bloody murder before the plane takes off.

No one will let Gerry go back in to get ol’ Jack, Max, his (questionable) “best girl” Mya and the others, leaving him to spend countless weeks dealing with his guilt and slowly coming up with ideas how to go back in. (At one point he’s in Astoria, no doubt hoping to get some of that Goonie money.) Meanwhile, we get up-to-date reports on how long the dogs have been sitting out there in the cold. It’s four days before they finally get off the tightened collars and by the 175th day, it’s a miracle ANYONE is giving them a second thought. But the dogs do persevere during the chunk of the film which is easily its best. In the tradition of the best “animals on their own” flicks, we get some wonderful and moving alone time with the dogs as they plot food strategies and encourage each other not to give up when the odds have left them few outs. A confrontation with a leopard seal is scary enough to have adults jumping from their seats and giving second thought how traumatic this cute animal adventure might be for their children.

Personally, kids can use a little trauma. Builds character. And if they can count up to eight, they will soon notice that they don’t have to. Due to some sloppy editing though, even those who can count to ten may lose track of how many of our heroes are left in the fray. Maybe if the film was content to stick with one of its stories instead of dealing with the guilt of the humans, we wouldn’t have as much trouble connecting. Except we’ve got Paul Walker, who in the early scenes is OK since all he’s called on to do is bark out the facts and orders that any guide should have committed to memory. But there’s absolutely zero feeling when it comes to his thoughts about the dogs. A film like this needs an actor who is going to sell the emotion (even if its over-the-top and manipulative), not someone channeling swimming with Jessica Alba to produce salty discharges in the frozen tundra. Even his tears scream restasis.

Marshall must take a chunk of the blame here. Not Congo-blame, but still. The film’s adventure takes a hit every time we go back to the humans and not just because of the Walker factor. The dog scenes are so naturally done that it’s a pity the balance wasn’t shifted over to them entirely. Imagine if during Alive, Marshall cut back repeatedly to the rescue effort. He may have created a new motif for himself with crosses left in the snow, but dramatically we’re left shut out of the extremity of the animals’ peril as months pass without even the necessary urgency on Gerry’s part to initiate a rescue. To paraphrase Billy Madison – “You got a responsibility. If your dogs are lost you don't look for an hour then call it quits. You get your ass out there and you find those fucking dogs!” Keeping us with the animals would have also spared us Jason Biggs as Walker’s cartographer friend, a part seemed written for Matthew Lillard only to have Biggs use as his motivation a mentally challenged person. Or Matthew Lillard. Hopefully major Hollywood directors will heed Eight Below as a warning that The Dead Zone was not just a book and a movie. It’s Paul Walker and its where acting goes to die. If one of the dogs had turned out to be John Carpenter’s Thing monster, it wouldn’t take over Walker because even an alien can see the original can’t pass for human.

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originally posted: 02/17/06 16:19:20
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User Comments

4/04/11 Florian Herbst Lousy movie, the worst is the "pilot"-girl Moon Goodblood (haven't seen lousier actress) 2 stars
3/25/08 R.W. Welch The dogs were great; the movie okay. 3 stars
12/15/07 Nan The rock in the snow was almost a joke, but we enjoyed the movie.. 4 stars
12/10/06 TJ DISNEY did it again. The best tear jerker/feel good story of the century. (So far.) 5 stars
8/06/06 Chris Wilbik Good movie! Bought it to see again 5 stars
7/06/06 GK A "family" story. 4 stars
6/08/06 Peggy Doty WORTH A LOOK 4 stars
5/23/06 Gideon Touching story 5 stars
4/30/06 Sylvia Isaac My husband and I both thought it was great. Really tugged at our hearts. 5 stars
4/26/06 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
4/02/06 Anna Fox Great movie--want more like it 5 stars
3/31/06 shayla this was the best movie ive ever seen 5 stars
3/03/06 Kankasaur Great analogy by OZ; Paul Walker IS the boy from "Puppy Lost His Way"! 3 stars
2/26/06 Quigley the dogs really steal the show. though walker still knows squat about acting, it's good 4 stars
2/25/06 bobbi worth seeing for the animals; however nonanimal plots are cliche ridden 4 stars
2/19/06 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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