Friday, March 03, 2006

Movie: Eight Below

Okay. First off: I don't normally go to this cinema on weekends. I strictly go through the week and I'm not accustomed to there being a crowd. I usually crash out in the front row of the main section (not the very front section) where there's infinite leg-room and no neighbors. Lots of space for coat and other accessories: pop, popcorn, popcorn topping powder (I bring my own seasoning with me so I don't have to miss any screen time running out to the lobby to freshen up that delicious white cheddar dust).

But on this Saturday evening I'm here with my writing buddy, Spooky and her adorable 3-year-old daughter. We sit in the second row, the wee tyke between us and are quickly packed in by neighbors. It's dark in the theatre when some kids come cruising down the aisle toward us and I can see that there are just enough vacant seats beside me for all of them to squeeze in. No buffer. So I grab my extra-large diet coke from the holder a chair-length away from me and struggle to find space on the floor for it. Then, in the semi-darkness I reach for my coat on the seat beside me and carefully manipulate it, trying to find the collar - not wanting to pick it up the wrong way and dump any contents from the pockets onto the floor. That would be disastrous you see. I'm too plump a fellow to be crouching in a theatre trying to reach under seats to find lost gloves/car keys/cell phone/wallet and/or popcorn powder. Unfortunately I'm not fast enough for the youngsters' liking.

"Can you move your coat sir?" says the young girl while I'm obviously already in the process of doing that. I don't reply but shoot her a brief look that clearly says 'Watch your step little girl or I may neatly dismantle and eat you.' This seems effective as I don't hear a peep from her for the next two hours. Most unfortunately there's a plethora of peeping going on elsewhere.

Another little girl behind me somewhere is determined to prefix every scene in the movie with loud comments such as, "Is this where they fall through the ice?", "Is that the one who dies?" and "Is this where he dies?" Nice eh?

The wee tyke blabbers through most of the movie while I squirm with anxiety. I fear that everyone in the theatre can hear her and are planning to quietly murder us right after the show. I start to wish I hadn't parked in such a remote corner of the parking lot where no one will hear our screams. Spooky says "Shh!" to her daughter about 600 times which is very effective because it's surely comforting to our neighbors to hear 'Bluh bluh bluh'-'Shh!' 600 times rather than simply 'Bluh bluh bluh' 600 times. When not saying 'Shh' Spooky is bending over and groaning and grimacing. She has a bad stomach ache after our dinner at Angel's Diner but declines my offer to split the scene and take her home instead.

The older woman in front of us continually falls asleep and wakes herself up with her own snoring - over and over again. The gentleman beside her - oh, this is the best part by far, folks - is mercifully quiet for the entire duration. However he also smells distinctly of urine for the entire duration. God bless the manufacturers of fine Depends products everywhere; Helping seniors get out and about and raising a good old stink. Bravo. I'm not sure whether this was a triggering factor or not but my own bladder - a highly trained movie-savvy bladder normally - wussied out on me to my surprise and dismay and I spent the better part of an hour beneath my folded up coat and snack items squirming and slithering in my chair, afraid to try to weasel myself down the long jam-packed aisle to escape to the men's room.

Oh - the movie? There were these dogs and a whole lot of snow. That's about all I picked up on between distractions. Oh wait. I remember one scene clearly. A sea-lion - no - a leopard seal; some creature that looked suspiciously Jurassic Park-ish, came bursting out of a certain unlikely place; a giant shocking toothy swallow-the-camera perspective that had a dozen small kids in the house leaping terrified onto parents' laps.

A question for you high-flying Hollywood exec types:

Do films about cute doggies that will inevitably draw mostly families and young kids to attendance need to contain a lone gratuitous brick-shitting horror scene? Is there a point to that?

Also sticking out like a sore thumb was the character thrown in to satisfy the unfortunate Hollywood-comic-relief-formula. I'm pretty sure this was the same actor who once boinked an apple pie in the film American Pie. I can assure you his performance in Eight Below was every bit as moving and poignant. We can see he's older now as his face has changed though his acting hasn't.

On the bright side: The dogs and their handlers did some great work demonstrating some meaningful social interaction between the animals despite the absence of English dialogue. Some scenes were touching. If you're a dog-lover you may find this flick worth-while.


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