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‘The Great Alaskan Race’ drearily turns true-life adventure to mush

Brian Presley shoulders a sled dog as he walks with Emma Presley and Brea Bee in the movie ‘The Great Alaskan Race’
Brian Presley, daughter Emma Presley and Brea Bee in the movie “The Great Alaskan Race.”
(P12 Films)

Writer-director Brian Presley’s calamity-on-a-budget action-drama “The Great Alaskan Race” drearily recounts the true story of Nome, Alaska’s 1925 lethal diphtheria outbreak and the nearly 700-mile dog sled relay organized to deliver life-saving antitoxin to the remote town.

Unfortunately, the well-intended, Colorado-shot film spends more time among dying children, grieving parents, stalwart medical and municipal folks, and wrangling politicos than it does involving us in the death-defying, against-all-odds transport trip. It also takes a plodding chunk of the movie’s brief running time just to set up the characters and the pending crisis.

Presley (he also produced and co-edited) plays real-life champion musher Leonhard Seppala, who, with his beloved 12-year-old dog Togo leading the pack, must travel hundreds of miles in ultra-brutal conditions to help bring the crucial serum home to Nome. Meanwhile, widower Seppala’s young daughter, Sigrid (Emma Presley, Brian’s daughter), lies in a hospital bed.

Unfortunately, the so-called race is rendered in, er, dogged but unconvincing snippets, many of which are staged in “snow” so blinding that it’s hard to make out the action.

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But it’s the banal dialogue, lack of tension, one-note characterizations and overly earnest acting — even by such veterans as Treat Williams, Bruce Davison and Henry Thomas — that conspire to turn this potentially moving and exciting picture into mush.

'The Great Alaskan Race'
Rated: PG, for thematic material, brief bloody images, some language and smoking

Running time: 1 hour, 24 minutes

Playing: In general release


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