Disney movie is uplifting

When Hollywood takes on the role of producing a film that is both inspirational and entertaining, the result usually ends up presenting itself as a documentary rather than an epic adventure. However, the film “Eight Below” conquers both these aspects as it is charming, funny and exciting. With the help of some unpredictable four-legged stars, the film will easily becomes classic family entertainment.

“Eight Below” is set in the backdrop of Antarctica as a stormy winter is about to set in on a group of scientists and explorers. Among these explorers is survival guide Jerry Shepard (Paul Walker, “2 Fast 2 Furious”) and his friend and cartographer Cooper (Jason Biggs, “American Wedding”). When geologist Davis McLaren (Bruce Greenwood, Capote) enters the story, Shepard agrees to lead him deep into the wild Antarctic environment in search of a fallen meteorite. During the trip, Davis is seriously injured and barely escapes with the help of a skilled sled dog team.

When Davis and Shepard return to the base, they are forced to evacuate and leave the sled dogs behind in the frozen tundra as a monstrous storm sets in. The dogs are forced to rely on one another and learn how to survive in the unforgiving terrain. Vowing to return for the dogs he considers family, Shepard launches a dangerous rescue mission and fights through a winter storm with the help of bush pilot Katie (Moon Bloodgood).

“Eight Below” was inspired by an actual event that took place in 1957 and was the basis for the Japanese survival film “Nankyoku Monogatari” (“Antarctica”). The film became the highest grossing Japanese film of its time and continues to hold box-office records.

The “Eight Below” cast is backboned by Paul Walker, who creates most of the drama and sets the action throughout the film. Co-star Jason Biggs brings much needed humor to the film; although he seems to be forcing it at times. Both roles, however, are static characters and breath little life into the film.

The heart of the motion picture has to lie with the eight dogs who carry the film. When the dogs take center stage they are able to increase the tension and even depict their emotions on screen. At times, the film does slow down with the absence of dialogue, but this uneven pace is the exception and not the rule. With sled dogs Maya and Max leading the pack, the dogs quickly grab the hearts of their audience.

The landscape of Antarctica is pivotal in telling this story of survival. Although the movie is actually filmed in northern Canada, the setting depicts how the Antarctic surroundings would appear. Director Frank Marshall (“Congo”) brings this inhabitable continent alive making it seem both beautiful and dangerous, which turns out to be a deadly combination. Such highlights in the film include viewing the mountainous snow covered terrain and the Northern Lights in a dark Antarctic sky. Even a leopard seal makes a cameo in the film showing off it’s fierceness.

In the true tradition of inspirational films, “Eight Below” has a happy ending that can leave an audience with a warm feeling even after it enters into its own artic winter.

“Eight Below”, rated PG, is now in theaters now. For more information on the movie, visit www.disney.com