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Walt Disney Home Video presents

Eight Below (2006)

"I gotta get back there, I owe it to them."- Jerry Shepard (Paul Walker)

Stars: Paul Walker
Other Stars: Bruce Greenwood, Moon Bloodgood, Jason Biggs, Gerard Plunkett, Belinda Metz
Director: Frank Marshall

MPAA Rating: PG for (some peril and brief mild language)
Run Time: 02h:00m:20s
Release Date: 2006-06-20
Genre: family

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Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A AA-A B

 

DVD Review

Every year brings at least one family film from Disney, and these have been surprise critical and box office successes. That trend continued in 2006 with the theatrical release of Eight Below. In true Disney tradition, this heartfelt adventure story featured a little bit of everything for the entire family, from characters—in this case, sled dogs—we instantly fall in love with surviving one perilous situation after another, to a series of tear-jerking scenes.

Inspired by a true story, as they say, this is the tale of eight sled dogs. Their human guide and friend is Jerry Shepard (Paul Walker), a researcher at a National Science Foundation base in Antarctica. He's part of a team that also consists of Charlie Cooper (Jason Biggs), an engineer and cartographer; Dr. Andy Harrison (Gerard Plunkett); his assistant, Rosemary (Belinda Metz); and the newest arrival, Dr. Davis McClaren (Bruce Greenwood). The team soon learns that a huge storm is coming, so they have to leave immediately. The problem is that there isn't enough room on the plane for Jerry's beloved dogs, who must stay behind and fight the elements until their handler can find a way to get them to safety.

The movie delivers on many levels, mainly as good old-fashioned family fun. While most of the film focuses on Jerry's attempts to retrieve his dogs, there's still plenty of other excitement. Some plotlines involve the potentially chemistry-killing appearance of Dr. McClaren, the always wisecracking antics of Charlie, and Jerry's budding romance with Katie (Moon Bloodgood), a pilot. There are more subplots, but director Frank Marshall does a nice job of interweaving these angles, always keeping the focus on the life-blood of Eight Below, the dogs.

Paul Walker gets top billing, but the dogs are, indeed, the real stars of the show. Movie animals don't get much more loveable than this, but these aren't just cutesy dogs. The footage with these canine stars is similar to that in the breathtaking film, March of the Penguins; there's the same sort of emotional attachment, as each of the dogs has a distinct personality. They literally scratch and claw their way through some truly grueling situations, but still manage to look out for each other, whether trudging through deep snow or wrestling for the nourishment supplied by a dead animal.

A great-looking film as well, Eight Below benefits from topnotch cinematography and a wonderful Mark Isham score. His music toes a fine line between pulse-raising and sappy, but it stays more towards the former. These are a lot of elements to cram into a single film and still come out on the plus side, but everyone behind one of 2006's better efforts so far deserves a huge round of applause.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.40:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The film is presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen, and the wonderful cinematography is truly given the chance to shine. Everything is sharp and nicely detailed despite a couple of occasions of softness. The colors are well-rendered, and never suffer from bleeding or other blemishes. Shadow and black levels are nice, while the presence of dirt and grain are kept to a minimum.

Image Transfer Grade: A-
 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
English, French, Spanishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 track frequently utilizes the surrounds, featuring a wide dynamic range and excellent directional effects. An aggressive bass presence also ramps up the more exciting adventure sequences, and the dialogue is always easy to understand.

Audio Transfer Grade:

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 14 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
8 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Little Mermaid: 2-Disc Special Edition, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, The Shaggy Dog, Airbuddies, Leroy & Stitch, Brother Bear 2, High School Musical, The Fox and the Hound: 25th Anniversary Edition
5 Deleted Scenes
1 Featurette(s)
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by 1. Director Frank Marshall and producer Pat Crowley.2. Director Frank Marshall, actor Paul Walker, and director of photography Don Burgess.
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: A good collection of extras includes a pair of audio commentary tracks. The first features director Frank Marshall and producer Pat Crowley, and is mostly a technical, behind-the-scenes look at the making of Eight Below, from conception to its theatrical release. The second track, with Marshall, Paul Walker, and director of photography Don Burgess, is more of a catch-all discussion. Both tracks are very informative, but have their share of dry spots.

There are five deleted scenes that wouldn't have added much to the theatrical cut, but are interesting in their own right. Running with the Dogs: The Making of Eight Below, is a great piece on the making of the film. The best aspect of these 10 minutes is the footage devoted to the training of the sled dogs, including some revelations about the location shooting. Finishing up the extras are eight previews for other Disney releases.

Extras Grade: B
 

Final Comments

An exciting, emotionally uplifting cinematic achievement, Disney's Eight Below should grace the shelves of many DVD collectors now that it's available on home video. This single-disc features outstanding audio and video, along with a relatively small yet entertaining collection of supplements.

Chuck Aliaga 2006-06-20