And of course spend 90% of the movie elbowing my boyfriend and going: AAAWWWW!!! (and the other 10% in tears). The huskies in this sled-dog epic showed so much heart, strength, bravery, and enthusiasm for their work - and have such wonderful faces - how could I help myself?
Certainly there's anthropomorphizing here, attributing a sense of empathy and self-sacrifice to dogs that's probably not supported by the reality of the canine psyche (whether they even have one has been a matter of debate). Still, we do tend to identify our feelings with those of our animals, so the examples of nobility and compassion displayed by these magnificent critters can only elevate us.
I was also awed by the animals' acting ability (and the trainers' expertise clearly behind it). If I can get all four of mine to sit at the same time, it's a triumph.
For stories about the dog ''actors,'' check out the following:
Warning, if you're planning to see it with small children: Seated in front of us were a couple, their 7-year-old daugther, and two of her little friends. They left about one-third of the way through the film. At least one of the kids was too upset by it (see the reference below to Bambi).
Here's the Herald's review of the film, published Feb. 17. It's written by book editor/film critic Connie Ogle, another dog fanatic who has two critters at the moment. She makes an excellent point about pet fads that movies create, and how too often animals become victims of those fads. Eight Below is a dangerous film. Not because of its harrowing subject matter - eight sled dogs inadvertently abandoned at an Antarctic research station must survive a brutal winter - but because the creatures are so beautiful and personable that people, who frequently act like nitwits, will want to bring home a husky. A brief public service announcement: You live in FLORIDA. Don't be one of those idiots who bought a Dalmatian puppy because of a cartoon and then took it to the pound because it was, you know, a dog. If you simply can't live without a husky, consult your local animal shelter and save a life.
Saving lives is, of course, what Eight Below is all about, and if its two-legged characters were half so interesting as the four-legged ones, the movie would be spectacular. As it is, Eight Below is still solid family entertainment, with thrilling action sequences and gorgeous scenery. But the film lags whenever the action shifts away from the dogs and focuses on the humans, most of whom don't seem to develop consciences until the final act.
Gerry (Paul Walker) is the guy with the heart. He's a guide at a remote research station who finds himself on a hazardous trip with an ambitious scientist (Bruce Greenwood). When a life-threatening accident occurs, and a nasty storm threatens, he's forced to evacuate with the promise that his pilot/romantic interest Katie (Moon Bloodgood) will fly back immediately to bring his brave dogs to safety. But she's ordered not to return, and the team is left chained up outside to face the storm with no food, water or shelter.
Walker's handsome blandness works well here; he gamely lets the dogs upstage him, and they are mesmerizing, whether stalking seagulls, fighting off a greedy leopard seal or simply snuggling into the snow to sleep.
It's when Eight Below leaves their plight that the story falters, and the plot mires down in a pedestrian battle of wills. Gerry can't surmount bureaucratic hurdles to get back to his dogs, and the scientist isn't inclined to help, despite the fact that the team saved his butt. As for Katie, well, she never seems that upset about the whole thing anyway. Anybody who leaves dogs to starve or freeze to death is not someone about whom animal lovers can possibly feel warmly, so you have to wonder about Gerry's continuing interest.
It's worth noting that Eight Below is brought to you by the folks who killed off Bambi's mother, so be prepared for some tears. The film milks every opportunity to yank the heartstrings, but despite the calculation in its soul, Eight Below still manages to be a moving story about - what else? - the power of love.