Critical Consensus: "Eight Below" Is Above The Rest

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A pack of sled dogs brave the cold ("Eight Below"). A detective works on a case with potentially explosive ramifications ("Freedomland"). A movie parodies other movies ("Date Movie"). It's this week's wide releases!

Over the years, Disney has produced many adventures with animals struggling to survive in the harsh wild ("White Fang" comes to mind). And critics say "Eight Below," the story of a group of sled dogs who must brave the cold of Antarctica, carries on that proud tradition. Paul Walker stars in the based-on-a-true-story of a guide who must take a visiting researcher across a particularly perilous stretch of territory. The scribes say this is more than just a shaggy-dog story; it's infused with a real sense of drama and some of the warmest canine thespians ever to grace the silver screen. It's Mr. Walker's best reviewed film since "Pleasantville" (86 percent on the Tomatometer), and his best in a leading role. At 82 percent, "Eight Below" proves that every dog has its day. And "Eight Below" is not only Certified Fresh, is also the best-reviewed wide release of the year, besting a pair of family films, "Nanny McPhee" (75 percent) and "Curious George" (72 percent).

Sometimes the noblest of intentions can make for the clumsiest of films. Case in point: "Freedomland," a drama that delves into the thorny issue of race relations after a white woman dubiously claims she has been carjacked and her child kidnapped in a largely African American housing project. Critics say the film features perhaps the weakest performances in the distinguished careers of Samuel L. Jackson and Julianne Moore, and the script lacks the nuances that should give the film its emotional punch. (Strange, since Richard Price, the screenwriter, also penned the source novel for Spike Lee's "Clockers," a deft mixture of police procedural and social issues. It's at 75 percent on the Tomatometer.) At 16 percent on the Tomatometer, "Freedomland" may not be worth a visit.

Like someone on who has a stunning picture on the Internet personals but looks a lot different in person, "Date Movie" claims to be a comedy, but, since it wasn't screened for critics, we're guessing it may be a little short on laughs. (Here's a hint, in love as in cinema: just be honest!) So, kids, it's time for the funnest game since Spin the Bottle: Guess the Tomatometer! The closest guess wins a date with Critical Consensus. Or at least some props.

The Best Reviewed Wide Releases of 2006:
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75% -- Nanny McPhee (2006)
72% -- Curious George (2006)
64% -- Something New (2006)
58% -- Hostel (2006)
57% -- Glory Road (2006)

Notable Movies About Dogs in the Wild:
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22% -- Snow Dogs (2002)
67% -- Lassie (1994)
75% -- Homeward Bound- The Incredible Journey (1993)
82% -- White Fang (1991)
86% -- Benji (1974)

Recent Films Not Screened For Critics:
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10% -- When a Stranger Calls (2006)
16% -- Underworold: Evolution (2006)
7% -- BloodRayne (2006)
15% -- Grandma's Boy (2006)
12% -- Aeon Flux (2005)

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