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  • Writer's pictureBruce Klein

Snow Dogs: Review

With some charm and some clunkers, Snow Dogs is a fish-out-of-water story with juvenile humor and lots of pratfalls. Warning: This is not a movie for children 12 and under. There is a story here, but a slow reveal does not compliment the plot or the characters. The movie features Cuba Gooding, Junior as Ted Brooks and James Colburn as “Thunder Jack” Johnson. Ted is a Miami dentist and is summoned to the settlement of his birth mother’s estate. Which is a shock since he had no idea he was adopted. This aspect sets up the "fish out of water" tone of the film.

On his arrival in a tiny mountain town in Alaska, Ted enters a bar full of backwoods characters with the exception of the bar owner Barb (Joanna Bacalso), a lovely and perky native Alaskan. It turns out the Ted’s inheritance is his birth mother’s sled dogs, which we later find out are top race runners. Upon this announcement, things once again get rowdy, which leads to more pratfalls.

The big dog-sled race is coming. Thunder Jack Johnson (Ted’s maybe father?) plans to race his deceased mother’s lead dog in the big race. The sled dogs have animated facial features, which makes them terribly cute. Thunder Jack enters the race and Ted returns to his life in Miami. While there, he sees a picture that draws him back to the Alaskan town and the pretty bar owner. His worried adoptive mother follows him. Thunder Jack runs the race but breaks a leg doing so. Predictably, Ted saves the day. (SPOILER) Thunder Jack does indeed turn out to be Ted’s real father and tells his son of his love for his deceased birth mom. Naturally, everything ends happily in the cold mountain country, as the “fish” settles in the Alaska town as its dentist.

I guess Disney (who made the film) intended this as a family feature. Although, I don’t see how adults could stand to watch it, unless they bear it in order to draw their kids into hypnotic quietude. Moms might keep watching for the romance between Ted and Barb. Dads might keep watching for the rough-tuff-stuff between Ted and Thunder Jack, and Thunder Jack’s forbidding presence among the townsfolk. I don’t know much about children’s tastes, and question if they would really like this kind of movie?

Regardless, two great Oscar winning actors, Cuba Gooding, Jr. and James Colburn make this predictable screenplay move along. In this silly movie, Ted is a nerd who gets caught up in the happenings of a remote town. He goes from riches to rags. His mother comes along for the ride to back him up. He and his mother join one other African American in town to increase the population to three. It’s unbelievable that he would want to make roots here, and this transformation is the main element in the plot. I don’t exactly understand why he doesn’t return to Miami? Is it that his birth mother’s spirit and birth father inhabit the town, so Ted feels a need to return to the place of his birth? Family does play a big part of this tale, so I guess it only makes since to end with an emphasis on such an important topic for the intended audience.

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