2006 - United States - 120 minutes
Writer - David DiGilio from the Japanese film Nankyoku Monogatari
Director - Frank Marshall
My Rating - 5 of 5 Stars
Let me begin with the disclaimer that I am a sap for well-produced Disney films in which the good guys are strong and pure, there are very few bad guys, and everything works out in the end. Eight Below certainly fits that bill. Plus, it has dogs - another of my loves. In fact, the very best acting in the film is by the dogs notwithstanding the solid performances by the human actors.
The film is based upon an actual event that took place in the late 1950's in Antarctica. A Japanese research team was forced to leave fifteen sled dogs behind when they had to unexpectedly evacuate due to bad weather. When the dogs' owners returned in the spring with the obligation to find and bury their beloved dogs, they found that two of them had amazingly survived the brutal Antarctic winter. The dogs went on to be treasured celebrities in Japan. The 1983 Japanese film, Nankyoku Monogatari, depicts these events in a far more realistic way.
If you are a dog lover, you are probably saying to yourself that you'd rather not watch a film in which thirteen of fifteen dogs die from freezing or drowning, but this Disney version of the story is far kinder to the emotions. It eases the reality by having a far higher percentage of the dogs survive. Thus, it is a film that can be enjoyed by both adults and children. Some of the dogs do die, but the deaths are depicted in a way that translates into a less traumatic lesson on the cruelties of life for children viewing the film.
The scenery is beautiful, and even though the outdoor scenes were filmed in Greenland, the filmmakers performed a wondrous job of inserting Antarctic vistas making one believe the dogs were really there.
Again, the best acting in the film is by the dogs, and the DVD has an informative feature showing how the trainers instructed the dogs in their scenes. If you see the film and are interested in backstage information, you might enjoy reading about the treatment and training of the dogs on the American Humane site. The URL for this informative article is:
It's true that this film glosses over reality, but it is still an entertaining two hours spent with some good people and some extraordinary dogs.
July 6, 2006