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Credit Where Credit is Due: The Real Stars of a Fine Movie

  • Sep 12, 2006
EIGHT BELOW is a satisfying film on every level: the story is excellent (based on fact), the script is good, the direction by Frank Marshall is tight and fast paced for a two hour film, the scenery is spectacular and the cast is committed and well chosen. But the real stars of this film are the eight wondrous dogs who for much of the film carry the entire story of being on their own in the Antarctica winter for five plus months - and for the most part surviving through bonding and obvious devotion to each other. They are splendid - beautiful to watch in action and touching to observe in their interaction. But the dogs alone could not have made this happen without the other true stars of the picture - the dog trainers. They deserve mention, so here they are: Michael Alexander and Sally Jo Sousa are the main trainers and are well supported by Tammy Blackburn, Tracy Gardhouse, Thomas L. Gunderson, Rowan Harland, Trish Judd, Dea Valentin Kristensen, Grace McLeod, Scott Rowe, Andrew Simpson, Cherie Smith and Tim Williams. There! The kudos go to them and their names are buried in the credits.

The story is one of dedication and devotion of a group of sledders in the Antarctica who take researchers, such as Doctor McLaren (Bruce Greenwood) who is looking for a meteorite from Mercury, on their missions. The main dog lover and trainer is Jerry (Paul Walker in one of his best performances) and he is assisted by Katie (Moon Bloodgood) and Coop (Jason Biggs). When Jerry is out with the eight dogs taking Doctor McLaren to fine his meteorite, a major storm arises and the dogs and the two men barely make it back to the station, McLaren suffering a broken leg and saved by the bravery of the dogs and Jerry. The crew must evacuate and Jerry insists the dogs be taken out with them, but he is promised that the pilot Katie will return for them, a deed which goes unkept because of the severe weather. The dogs are left to fend for themselves and Jerry is heartbroken, making every feasible attempt to rescue them. By films ends we have witnessed the miracle of survival of the dogs and a demonstration of the profound bonding between man and animal.

This film may seem slight from the photo on the DVD, but it is one of those family oriented films that breaks barriers and delivers on a grand scale some very important emotional content. The cast is excellent (the dogs of course being the main characters). The production values are superb except for a strangely mawkish score by Mark Isham. Well worth your time and attention. Grady Harp, September 06

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review by . October 14, 2008
Pros: scenery, story     Cons: ...     The Bottom Line:   "Eight below zero, too cold to_snow  Eight below zero, nowhere to_go  Eight below zero, face to the wind  It must have been written I'd see you again"  ~Zero         At first I thought this was another children's movie and I wouldn't be interested in the storyline until I read a few reviews and realized it is a …
review by . April 26, 2008
Pros: Teaches children that there is another side of dogs that they have not seen.     Cons: Some scenes might be a little graphic for young children.     The Bottom Line: This movie will keep you wondering and asking yourself how did they do that.     Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot. If you love dogs, the way I do you will not want to miss this movie. This movie stars Paul Walker playing the part …
review by . January 27, 2007
When this film was released on the big screen, I had no desire to see it. It starred Paul Walker, who, in my opinion, sucks the life out of any role he's handed. I figured that this movie would play up the cuteness of the dogs for the kids and the looks of Walker for the moms in the crowd.    I was wrong.    This is a very good film. Although Walker is billed as the star, he and every other human in this film play second fiddle to the sled dogs in this movie. …
About the reviewer
Grady Harp ()
Ranked #97
Grady Harp is a champion of Representational Art in the roles of curator, lecturer, panelist, writer of art essays, poetry, critical reviews of literature, art and music, and as a gallerist. He has presented … more
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Despite a likable cast of humans, it's the canine stars who steal the show inEight Below, a terrific live-action adventure in the time-honored Disney tradition. Based on a true story that was previously filmed (much differently) as the 1983 Japanese hitAntarctica, this above-average family film takes place in 1993 and focuses on a dog-sled guide at an Antarctic research station (Paul Walker) who is forced by a severe storm to abandon eight beloved sled dogs for the duration of a harsh Antarctic winter. Left to fend for themselves, the rugged and resourceful dogs encounter danger at every turn, surviving for nearly six months while Walker and his closest colleagues (engagingly played by Bruce Greenwood, Moon Bloodgood, andAmerican Pie's Jason Biggs) join forces to mount a daring rescue mission. Having endured similarly extreme conditions on his 1993 filmAlive, director Frank Marshall brings an abundance of natural splendor (and minimum use of digital wizardry) to spectacularly arctic locations in Norway, Greenland and Canada, and Walker (star ofThe Fast and the Furious) lends an amiable sincerity to his compassionate role. For most viewers, however, it's the remarkable dogs (six Siberian huskies and two malamutes) who makeEight Belowso thoroughly entertaining. It's not quite an instant family classic, but it comes pretty doggone close.--Jeff Shannon
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