STUDIO: Walt Disney Home Entertainment
MSRP: $29.99
RUNNING TIME: 120 Minutes
• Commentary by director Frank Marshall and
producer Pat Crowley,
• Commentary by director Frank Marshall, star
Paul Walker and director of photography Don Burgess
• Deleted Scenes with audio commentary by director Frank Marshall
Running with the Dogs: The Making of Eight Below featurette

The Pitch

It’s Snow Dogs…again. No really, it’s like the exact same dogs…in the snow.

"Yep, time to find some baby seals…"

The Humans

Paul Walker, Bruce Greenwood, Moon Bloodgood, Jason Biggs.

The Nutshell

Paul Walker stars as Jerry, an Antarctic guide who takes scientist Davis McClaren (Greenwood) out into the snow dangerously late in the season in order to find a rare meteorite using his sled dog team. When Davis is injured and a storm swoops in unexpectedly, it’s up to the dogs to get them back to the base before they all freeze. Jerry and the others are forced to evacuate the base before the storm strands them and they have no choice but to leave the dogs behind. It then becomes a struggle for the eight dogs to survive the brutal Antarctic winter on their own and for Jerry to find a way back to them.

"Stop looking at me like I’m a peach cobbler, Biggs, ya fruit…"

The Lowdown

Senor Devin covered the flick some time back (here) and much of what he has to say rings true. The film is stirring and you can’t help but become emotionally enraptured by the eight dogs working this piece. Paul Walker gets to do some fairly serious-minded acting work without having neither modern day pirates, gangsters, nor the police on his ass. No trying to outrun Vin nor jumping cars onto boats, nor blowing up sunken planes; just emoting over canines. I’ve generally dug Walker’s movies and I think it’s true that he’s underestimated as just a surfer dude and not much else. From what I hear, his work in Running Scared is even better and it’s on my radar to peruse now. Tasty female lead Moon Bloodgood (easily the best name this year) is likeable also. But I was wondering what Jason Biggs was doing in Eight in a fairly minor role. Hanging out I suppose till the next inevitable Pie.

Thus explaining Walker’s emergency trip to the proctologist…

As for the film itself, it’s fine, and the dogs are truly the heart of it. They carry the movie and there are several scenes that are touching and one that genuinely scared the shit out of me which I won’t spoil here. I have to admit that except for Max and Maya, I had a little trouble keeping my dogs straight, but other than that their performances were good, if a little unavoidably too human. I half expected some Babe-style dialogue to start at any moment. Throughout the dogs’ many escapades to stay alive, I did find myself thinking back to the horrid cartoon which (God help me) I watched as a kid – a very young, young kid – Puppy’s Great Adventures. But like back then, I was interested in seeing what was going to happen next to the dogs and I too was a little frustrated when we had to keep going back to Walker trying to find a way back to the pooches and killing himself with guilt.

"You will gooo to the fridddgggge…you will get me the hammm…."

What Eight Below also has that you might not realize is a cast reunion (of sorts) from Snow Dogs, a movie I conveniently missed. No fewer than four dogs, including those portraying Maya, Max, Old Jack and Dewey were also mushers in that mush. Director Frank Marshall steps back behind the camera theatrically for the first time since Congo (damn I love that piece of…nevermind). Considering that he also directed Alive, there was a moment when I thought the dogs were going to take survival to the next level. Nevertheless, Marshall delivers us some great vistas of northern Canada, which doubled for the South Pole and keeps the story moving nicely without getting heavy handed in too much Lassie sappiness. Generally, a movie like this isn’t really my bag, but I found Eight Below very worthwhile. It’s great for the kids and don’t be surprised when you’re eyes are leaking more than a little. Though mine (sniff) didn’t.

"Christ, the frikkin’ Borealis Channel again?"

The Package

The film is shot in 2.40:1 and looks just fabulous. There’s English, French and Spanish Dolby 5.1 which works nicely, with French and Spanish subtitles. I think the cover art is good, if not very groundbreaking (it’s basically Iron Will x 8). There are two commentaries, one by director Frank Marshall and producer Pat Crowley, and another by Marshall, Paul Walker and director of photography Don Burgess. There’s also about 10 minutes of deleted scenes, all with commentary by Marshall available. The scenes provided just a little more background, but weren’t necessary…which is probably why they were deleted. Finally, there’s Running with the Dogs: The Making of Eight Below, which is your standard 10-minute featurette.

"Man this is bullshit, they’re working us like dogs."
"How’d my agent get me into this shit?"
"I turned down a f#%kin’ guest spot on Deadwood for this?!"
"Goddamnit, I was Top 10 at Westminster and now I’m doing this shit…"

7.0 out of 10