BY PATRICIA DRAZNIN
In 1958, 15 sled huskies led a Japanese expedition through the arctic. Scientists Ushioda and Ochi grew very attached to the dog team, especially to alpha dogs Taro and Jiro. But they had to leave the team behind to serve the next expedition. And the mission got canceled. The canines were left to survive the arctic winter alone. When the distraught Ushioda and Ochi joined the very next expedition to search for the remains of their beloved dog team, they found Taro and Jiro alive. This true story of a miraculous reunion inspired the 1983 Japanese blockbuster Nankyoku Monogatari (Antarctica), a cinematic revelation about the bond between man and beast, and about surviving the most unforgiving climate on earth.
Disney’s Eight Below delivers the next generation saga based on this same event. The emotional tale features eight sled dogs banding together to endure the arctic winter, mingled with an engaging but childishly executed story about the young and beautiful people who care about them. Unlike its predecessor, the Disney effort stars Paul Walker, Jason Biggs, and Moon Bloodgood, the not-old-enough-to-be-seasoned pioneers who exchange thin dialogue and descend into the South Pole wearing unzipped jackets. With the Disney musical score going doodley-doo.
But never mind. The dogs are what we’re here for: Max, Maya, Jack, Buck, Dewey, Shadow, Shorty, and Truman. These are the stars of the show. Filmed in the frosty forgotten landscapes of Greenland, Norway, and Canada, Eight Below refers not only to the chilling temperatures but to eight sled dogs chained together at the bottom of the earth with nothing to save them but their own willpower and spirit of cooperation. Watching these commanding animals is nothing short of heart throbbing as their riveting adventure tells the story of determination and the power of the pack. You’ll never root harder for any other team.