8 Below

3 out of 10


Three Above Zero Out of Ten

Eight dogs, at abandoned through mishap with no food, no shelter and no hope for the six months of the bitter Antarctic winter survive by working as a team. Surely there can't be a training session for office employees where this anecdote hasn't been trotted out? Based on the real events of the 1958 Japanese expedition, has all the heart and human interest that has been such a staple diet of Disney for so many years, but sadly, like the after dinner story from the bride's drunk uncle, after fifteen minutes there really is nothing left of interest to say. Handed a script by first-time movie screenwriter David diGilio, that is 90% filler, director Frank Marshall, known well for his involvement in outdoor adventure flicks like the Indiana Jones trilogy and Jurassic Park, is left with the unenviable dilemma of padding out an epic length of two hours with a Disney budget that prohibits the sort of Spielburg stunts and action that usually suffices. Everytime a character so much as brews a cup of coffee, Marshall has had no alternative but to pump the same level of drama that James Cameron would have done into the sinking of the Titanic.

Maybe it is the outstanding ability of matinee idol, Paul Walker, who has made films like the "Fast and the Furious" series, where there is minimal plot, to be at least watchable, that makes him so valuable here. Taking a break from street racing Hondas, young Mr. Walker finds himself struggling with the cutting edge of Bronze Age technology - the sleigh - to the adoration not of street gang bimbos but a pack of snappy huskies. After being sent out into a snowy wasteland on a fools errand to help Dr. Davis McClaren (Bruce Greenwood), the truly stereotyped Disney egghead with no sense, Jerry Shepherd (Paul Walker) has nothing much to do for the next 100 minutes, leaving Walker to have to "wing it" on angst-ridden devotion to the dogs that he accidentally left behind. With "American Pie" star, Jason Biggs (Cooper), as artificially added as monosodium glutamate to bring out the full zesty flavour of the humour that just isn't there and unknown ugly B-Movie reject, starlet Moon BloodGood, as the love interest Katie who makes Walker almost visibly shudder, the cast is in practice complete.

One cannot question the charm of the dogs, particularly as  Buck (Old Jack), D.J. (Max), Floyd (Dewey), Koda (Maya) have already appeared previously in "Snowdogs", a previous effort by the Mickey Mouse crowd. Sadly, though, one can doubt the splendor and beauty of Antarctica, as much of this was actually filmed in Alaska, as Marshall strives to squeeze the film inside the Disney budget where a broken pencil represents a serious budget-busting overrun.

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

Film Critic: Robert L Thompsett