WEB EXTRA: ‘Eight Below’ rises above expectations

Who knew that Disney could make Jason Biggs PG and turn teen heartthrob Paul Walker into a regular guy whose best friends are eight sled dogs. Set in the harsh climate of Antarctica, the tastefully done “Eight Below” evokes authentic emotion as love and loyalty are put to the test.

The movie is based on the true story of scientist Jerry Shepard (Paul Walker, “Into the Blue”), who works with a small team of research scientists at a research base in Antarctica. During a January 1993 expedition, Shepard finds himself in the middle of the tundra with limited supplies when an unexpected storm hits. Shepard, along with his team, relies on the dogs (Max, Buck, Shadow, Dewey, Truman, Old Jack, Shorty, and Maya) for everything from direction and transportation to even compassion. But when he is ripped away from his best friends due to circumstances he cannot control, he’ll risk anything to see them again.

Nicknamed “Coop,” scientist Joey Cooper (Jason Biggs, “American Pie”) is a lighthearted contrast to Walker’s Shepard. A great addition to the movie, Biggs delivers a delightful performance with perfect comedic timing. But beyond that, Biggs portrays, for the first time, more than just a one-dimensional character. Even the dogs love him! Actress Moon Bloodgood, who plays the passionate beauty Kate, brings a strong female presence to the screen. Kate can fly a plane and protect herself in the harshest winter, but even she has a weakness: Jerry Shepard.

One person in the movie that the audience can relate to is Dr. Davis McClaren (Bruce Greenwood), who only traveled to Antarctica to find special rocks that would advance modern astronomy. The dogs end up saving his life, but when the time comes when he could save theirs, he isn’t sure if he wants to. The movie raises the question, is it worth risking our lives to save animals?

The most heartwarming part of this suspenseful adventure is the friendship and care that the dogs feel for each other. Their display of courage and bravery alone make the movie a winner. Abandoned in the cold wilderness, they must rely on each other for warmth and companionship. They risk their own lives time after time for the benefit of others, but now they must fend for themselves.

The dogs will make tears come to your eyes as you watch them struggle to survive. Even without dialogue, the expressions and gestures that they make, clearly illustrate their love for one another – you know just what they feel. “Eight Below” is definitely for families, but young adults would enjoy it as well; it would make a good romantic Friday night movie. As you watch, you can’t help but wonder if there are seven people or friends that would go the distance for you.

“Eight Below” is now playing in theaters.

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