Cast & Crew
Cuba Gooding Jr.
M. Emmet Walsh
Dr. Rupert Brooks
Casey Grant, Jordan Kerner and Allison A. Millican; Directed
by Brian Levant; Screenwritten by Gary Paulsen,
Jim Kouf, Tommy Swerdlow, Michael Goldberg, Mark Gibson
and Philip Halprin
(US); Rated PG for mild crude humor; Running Time
- 99 Minutes
Domestic Release Date
January 18, 2002
by DAVID KEYES
the lights go down in the theater that is showing "Snow
Dogs," the mind is immediately flooded with prospects
of "Cats and Dogs"-style animal effects, in which
normal four-legged pets are effortlessly warped into english-speaking
intellects with an edge on cunning behavior and witty reasoning.
Such a perspective has been used as the primary advertising
tool behind this live action Disney vehicle, but like so
many campaigns of the recent past from the infamous Mouse
House, the delivery is more deceitful than valid. In fact,
the movie contains only one major scene featuring animals
engaging in human discussion, and it's strictly a dream
sequence, lifted from a story centered on not charm or amusement,
but cringe-worthy standards and feel-good tones that could
pass off as leftover treats from Disney's recent past live
action endeavors. No, this isn't even a movie we can enjoy
as mild escapism; it is one in which fear and frustration
are provoked to intolerable levels.
movie stars Cuba Gooding Jr., a fine actor who, unfortunately,
appears to be headed for cinematic meltdown (as previewed
by his appearances in "Men of Honor" and "Pearl
Harbor"). He plays Ted Brooks, a Miami dentist who
suddenly discovers that the mother he's known all his life
(a chronic cookie-baker played by Nichelle Nichols) is actually
adoptive, and that his biological parent has recently died
and left him an inheritance. Summonded to Alaska for the
reading of her Will, Ted packs up and leaves behind the
sunny beaches of southern Florida for the frigid slopes
of the mountanous arctic state, where he meets a town full
of eccentrics that, in one way or another, are connected
to his mother's "fortune." Among the established
supporting players are Thunder Jack (James Coburn), who
has secret ties to the new Alaskan arrival, and Barb (Joanna
Bacalso), the level-headed female who, as to be expected,
quickly becomes the dentist's love interest. Without giving
too much more away (not that there's anything of interest
left to discuss here), Ted finds out that his inheritance
is actually a team of sled dogs, composed of Siberian Huskys
that, for some weird reason, Thunder Jack wants to get his
hands on. Will Ted let the creatures fall into the hands
of this seemingly ambiguous guy? Or will he take them under
his control, despite his disapproval, and train them to
be the best sledding team of the Northwest?
around this plot, "Snow Dogs" utilizes the sappy
cliches of recent live action Disney fanfare to a sickening
degree, slogging through plot twist after plot twist with
a plastic facade suitable only for reruns of "Full
House." The dogs aren't even there to make any advancement
whatsoever in the premise; their sole purpose is to keep
younger eyes occupied, as few (if any) of them will find
much to admire about the substance itself. Occasionally,
we're delivered a wisecrack or a physical action that generates
a crooked smile, but the hope wears out almost immadietly
after the generic characters open their mouths.
like these appear to be contagious when it comes to Disney's
live action department; though their feature animation has
finally taken a leap of faith in aiming at mature audiences,
their other efforts tweak around with the same mundane and
brain-dead ideas, treating audiences as if they have the
mental capacity of toddlers (their most recent example being
the vastly overrated "The Princess Diaries").
What gives? Good question. Maybe it's all part of the studio's
idealistic philosophy that they have to keep some of their
material cherubic and innocent because, well, the word Disney
is synonymous with endeavors of child-like simplicity. But
this is a time when the market provides youngsters access
to the treasures of the past; if viewers were serious about
keeping in touch with these sort of feel-good experiences,
what stops them from simply going to rent something like
"Mary Poppins" or "The Parent Trap"
instead? In either case, "Snow Dogs" is neither
new or significant, but rather a painful result of a paint-by-number
formula wearing out its welcome for the hundredth time.
Take it or leave it, but don't say I didn't warn you.
2002, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
Please e-mail the author here
if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.