The dogs rescue the humans, but will the humans rescue the dogs? Can they?
A scientist (Bruce Greenwood) arrives at a National Science Foundation base in Antarctica, in search of a rare meteor. Vehicles are too heavy to take over the thin ice, so Gerry (Paul Walker) takes him on a sled pulled by eight dogs. They are called back early due to major storms, and one of them is injured on the return. The need for immediate medical attention and the severity of the storm means that all of the people on the base have to be evacuated. There is no space for the dogs on the plane. Katy (Moon Bloodgood), the pilot, assures Gerry that she will fly right back to get them. But because of the storm it will be months before they can return. The dogs have been left behind, tightly chained together, with no food or shelter. How can they survive?
The dogs manage to break free, and the best part of the film is seeing them explore the icy environs and learn how to care for themselves and each other. There is a nice counterpoint with the efforts of the humans, also learning and growing and ultimately working as a team to get back to Antartica and the dogs.
The story is exciting and inspiring, the dogs and scenery are breathtakingly gorgeous, and director Frank Marshall expertly balances thrills, laughs, and tender moments that are genuinely moving. Marshall handles the sad and scary material gently and gracefully.
Parents should know that the movie has very intense peril for a PG movie, including a very scary jump-out-at-you surprise, falls, animal fights, injuries to human and animal characters and (spoiler alert) the sad deaths of two of the dogs and of some birds killed by the dogs for food. There are shots of an animal carcass. Characters drink beer and Scotch (and Fresca).
Families who see this movie should talk about how we decide what risks are worth taking. What changed the way Jerry and Katy felt about each other? They might want to learn more about Antarctica, sled dogs, and the beautiful Aurora Australis or “Southern Lights” enjoyed by the dogs in this film.
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Balto, an animated film about the heroic dog whose statue is in New York’s Central Park, and March of the Penguins. They will also enjoy this interview with the director.