Enduring Disney’s insufferable and feebleminded Eight Below, I was reminded of an old joke I’ve never heard: What do you get when you cross Paul Walker, the Antarctic, and eight sled dogs? I don’t know either, but it’s frozen, it sticks to the bottom of your shoe, and it smells a lot like shit.
Disney’s tagline, “The Most Amazing Story of Survival, Friendship, and Adventure Ever Told,” is accurate on only one count: It’s amazing, all right. Amazing that it got made, amazing that any one of the jackasses in the cast signed on, and amazing that the studio has enough confidence in Paul Walker and a bunch of mongrel furballs to open it on 3,000 screens. Oh, and it’s amazingly bad, too, pushing just enough overwrought earnestness down your throat to tickle your gag reflex but not quite enough pull the trigger and relieve you from the decayed fragments of your life, which will sit and fester while you wonder what in God’s name possessed you to travel a career path that has led you to a place where Big Momma taunts you, where video-game harlots haunt you, and where you find yourself hoping that the dude from The Fast and the Furious would just hurry the fuck up and find those dogs so that man and beast can finally be reunited in a weird, face-licking, smooch-filled, inappropriate bliss.
In other words, it was another typical Saturday night at the local multiplex for me.
Seriously, through the first two months of 2006, Eight Below is unrivaled in its shittiness; it possesses all the talent and intellect of a Perez Hilton post (without all of Hilton’s queeny, camera-mugging meretriciousness — I mean, c’mon, not even Paul Walker would stoop to that level of sycophantic scumbaggery.) The film does have the faint ability to tug at your heartstrings, but only if you’re an emotional cripple who has just lost a dog in the Antarctic, and even then it’s a stretch. Indeed, Eight Below is the kind of movie that makes you want to disband PETA, just so you’ll have the freedom to engage in shotgun euthanasia, prematurely putting those poor huskies out of their misery.
Inspired by a true story about a 1958 Japanese scientific expedition, Eight Below is actually a remake of the film Nankyoku monogatari; Disney, however, chose to find the pastiest actors it could find to relay the story, lest anyone get the impression that heroism could occur outside of the Anglo-Saxon race. Paul Walker plays Gerry Shepherd, a guide with an unhealthy obsession with sled dogs, who shepherds (so many levels, people) scientists to various locations in Antarctica.
Late one season, Shepherd and his dogs leads Bruce Greenwood’s unnamed scientist character (let’s call him “
Perez” “Dumbass”) out into the mountains in search of a meteorite. Once they arrive at their destination, they learn that a huge snowstorm is on its way (apparently, this comes as a surprise to inhabitants of Antarctica), but Dumbass wants to stick around and find his damn meteorite. Once it is finally secured, they head back, get caught in the storm, and Dumbass falls in a frozen lake. Thankfully, the dogs save him before he drowns and/or freezes to death, and everyone eventually makes it back to base with frostbite (thanks, Dumbass!) Unfortunately, Frostbite + Snow Storm = Sorry Mutts, we’re leaving you chained up in Antarctica to fend for yourselves, but we’re going to think about you … a lot.
For the next hour, talent-deprived director Frank Marshall (Congo) features mostly footage from March of the Penguins, only the penguins have been Photoshopped out and replaced with huskies, and Morgan Freeman, presumably, has been stowed away with the Japanese. We watch as the dogs extricate themselves from their chains; the dogs wander through the snow aimlessly; the dogs eat birds; the dogs wander through the snow some more; the dogs find a tiger seal; the dogs wander in the snow; and the dogs sleep, with cartoon bubbles of a shirtless Paul Walker frolicking in the air. Egads!
Eventually, Eight Below mercifully succumbs to the inevitable: Shepherd and his crew ultimately secure financing to return to Antarctica 180 days later, where they search frantically through the snow to no avail. Unfortunately, all they find after three days of shoveling are eight frozen-dog corpses and a badly scrawled letter written in the snow: “Thanks for nothing, asshole.”*
My sentiments exactly.
Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba and managing partner of its parent company, which prefers to remain anonymous for reasons pertaining to public relations. He lives in Ithaca, New York.Eight Below / Dustin Rowles
Film Reviews | May 12, 2006 | Comments ()