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Toon Talk: Snow Dogs DVD
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by Kirby C. Holt (archives)
May 14, 2002
Kirby reviews one of the recent DVD release, Snow Dogs.

Toon Talk
Disney Film & Video Reviews by Kirby C. Holt

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Snow Dogs DVD
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Dr. Ted Brooks (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) seemingly has it all: a successful dentistry practice, a loyal friend and business partner (“Thong” singer Sisqo), a posh Miami condo, and a lovingly attentive mother (Star Trek’s Nichelle Nichols). All of that is thrown up in the air when he receives a summons to attend the reading of a will of some unknown woman who lived in Alaska. Much to Ted’s surprise, he discovers he was adopted and this woman was his birth mother. Now finding himself questioning his life and how he’s lived it, Ted travels to the chilly North to find some answers.

What he does find is the tiny rustic town of Tolketna, which must be a sister community to Northern Exposure considering all the quirky locals, chief among them the strong willed yet sexy barkeep (like there is any other kind) Barb (Joanna Bacalso) and a grizzled mountain man dubbed ‘Thunder Jack’ (Oscar-winner James Coburn, steely-eyed with a mane of shocking white hair and a face as craggy as the Canadian Rockies). After the will is read, Ted finds himself bequeathed with the late Lucy’s estate, which consists of log cabin, a barn and … a sled dog team of Siberian Huskies.

Of course, Ted is not a dog-lover, and soon finds himself at odds with the canines. He decides to cut his losses and head back home, but is compelled to stay when he discovers the identity of his real father. (I won’t give it away here, but all one has to do is look at the casting to figure it out.) Wanting to prove himself to the daddy he never knew, Ted attempts to learn to ‘mush’ in time for the upcoming Arctic Challenge, a multi-day sled dog race.

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Needless to say, through some wacky and perilous escapades across the frozen tundra, Ted bonds with his father, learns to love dogs and, yes, even gets the girl.

Snow Dogs could have been an endearing and warm-hearted family film, but the hackneyed direction of Brian Levant (the man who unleashed Problem Child 2 and The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas upon the world) piles on the slapstick-laden, typical ‘city slicker in the wilderness’ shtick. The end result is a story too bogged down in its own cheekiness and oblivious to its own commonness. There is an honest narrative struggling to break through, but Levant only rarely allows a peek at any semblance of reality. It’s like the Three Stooges sitting on top of an Iron Will.

Cuba Gooding, Jr. burst onto the cinematic landscape with his searing role in John Singleton’s Boyz in the Hood over ten years ago, but with the exception of his explosive, Academy Award-winning role in Jerry Maguire, has had to mostly settle for either small roles in other actor’s ‘prestige pictures’ (A Few Good Men, As Good As It Gets) or hampered with lame comedic parts in lewd studio flicks (Lightning Jack, Rat Race). Center stage in Snow Dogs, Gooding shows the signs of a comedic actor, but is forced by his director to endure a few to many pratfalls, a few to many ‘scared city boy’ moments to be truly believable. The only thing not inflicted on the poor thespian is a kick in the groin.

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