Eight Below is the story of a boy and his dog. Actually, make that an extremely good-looking boy and his dogs. Based on a Japanese movie that was, in turn, based on a true story, Eight Below probably has little to do with what actually happened to eight Arctic sled dogs left behind by their trainer when bad weather prevented him from air lifting them to safety, but it does have the elements of a good family film.
Paul Walker plays the good-looking trainer and Arctic tracker who feels he betrayed his dogs when, through no fault of his own, he was forced to leave them to die. These dogs are not simply his best friends, but also, the movie would have us believe, his soul mates. He tries to make his way back to the Arctic to save them, but to no avail. The worst winter storm in 25 years has made the trip impossible. Meanwhile the dogs are left to their own defenses, and the movie follows their progress as well as our hero’s.
As with most Disney dog movies you actually care more about the dogs than the bland actors surrounding them. Paul Walker has the looks of a leading man, but the charisma of a mannequin come to life. Jason Biggs, late of the American Pie movies, is clearly here for comedic relief but seems out of place, as though he is still trying to lose his virginity by prom night.
Luckily we have the housebroken actors. Their story of survival—March of the Huskies?—is the most compelling story in the movie, but be warned there are a couple of Old Yeller moments that might wring a few tears from younger viewers. The filmmakers made a very wise choice not to use any CGI for the dog’s faces, and as a result these dogs look natural and inspire emotion.
Eight Below is a good, solid family film although some scenes may be a little intense for tots.