Eight Below: 4 Paws Up!

Saturday night I saw a Sneak Preview of the Forthcoming Disney Movie Eight Below that will be in theatres February 17th. As a dog lover I, of course, was hooked by the preview. Eight Sled Dogs left at an Antarctica Base for what was supposed to be three hours and ends up being six months. And it was based on a true story! Even better. The only question I had about seeing the movie was what possible motivation could Hollywood justify for abandoning eight dogs for six months? Without giving away the story, I will tesify that it was sufficiently contrived, but will work for the millions of kids that will see this wonderful family film.

But the art and beauty and emotional wallop of this film is not the circumstances that cause the dogs to be abandoned. It's not the desperate efforts by Paul Walker as their Sled Team Driver and Owner to go back and save them, it's not the wonderful comic relief offered by Jason Biggs of American Pie Fame; all of that is incidental to the story. But rather, it's in the drama and the beautiful footage of the dogs trying to survive on their own and dealing with the harsh Antarctic environment: a confrontation with a leopard seal in a battle for food, learning how to hunt on their own and capture birds that could easily fly away, watching them dance in excitement and joy at seeing the Southern Lights or ponder the meaning of a shooting star. These moments are exciting and magical, and they are balanced by the tragic missteps the dogs make that mortally wounds one, seriously maims another, and causes another to be separated from the pack (which in this movie, is a very strong metaphor for family) when one dog just refuses to leave another dog that has just died.

The way the dogs are portrayed when they are on their own is very much in the tradition of March of the Penquins, but unlike that movie, it is very clear that scenes are staged--like the dogs watching the shooting star moment. But you forgive Eight Below for that as you are caught up in the struggle of the dogs survival as you don't forgive the juxtapositions of the human characters and their trials and tribulations and mountain moving just to get back to Antarctica--not to save the dogs in some desperate hope that they might be alive, but to put their own personal demons to rest.

Make no mistake, the stars of this movie are the dogs. They have the most developed personalities in the movie, and it is they that are cause for celebration. See this film.

Thanks for reading.


Mike said...

As I was with Chris' review on our blog, I'm surprised. Maybe it's worth seeing, huh?

February 07, 2006 5:39 PM
Mike said...

I tried to leave a comment, and it didn't work. Maybe this one will work. Or maybe you'll see me comment twice! Oh well. I'm surprised that you and Chris both liked this movie. Maybe it's worthwhile.

February 07, 2006 5:42 PM

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