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Reviewed May 21st, 2002 by Dan Jones


Snow Dogs?

I remember seeing the trailer for this film last year on TV one night. My first feeling was that of an upchuck reflex; one of those “why are films like this made?” Then, overtime, I let it settle in and realized that perhaps I judged the trailer a bit harshly. Obviously, this is a children’s movie not at all targeted at my age group, therefore my reaction was unfair; I am sorry Disney.

Well it doesn’t really matter now. I have watched the film.

Snow Dogs is a film that seems to strive to go nowhere and achieve nothing. Without Cuba Gooding Jr. in the starring role, I doubt this film would have even been watchable; he is truly the one and only bright spot. As to why he would take a role like this, who really knows, the man definitely deserves better then this.

The story is rather simple. We have Gooding’s character, Ted Brooks, a famous Miami dentist (yes, famous?) that learns that not only was he adopted, but also that his biological mother has died and that he has been left a cabin in Alaska along with, you guessed it, a team of sled dogs. As luck may have it, Ted decides that he should race these dogs in a large sled dog race, the 500 mile Arctic Challenge. Of course, we have seen films like this before where you take a person from their normal conditions and place them into a completely different situation (a fish out of water situation if you will). I’d like to say that comedy ensues from situations like this, and in a good deal of films it does (City Slickers for instance), but here Snow Dogs does what Gooding’s character does quite a bit, falls flat on its face. The film tries to rely entirely too much on slapstick comedy that is just not funny, without really making the story at all interesting or anyway engrossing.

Now, as I said above, Snow Dogs is not targeted at me. It is undoubtedly a kid’s movie, but make no mistake there are many, many more entertaining kid’s movies out there.

To further remove me from the target audience of Snow Dogs, Disney has decided that I would much rather receive a pan and scan version of the film; with no anamorphic widescreen option (I am sure the cinematographer loves this). Overall, this transfer is not overly impressive with some compression artifacting here and there, as well as only average detail and some slight edge enhancement problems.

Audio wise, Snow Dogs does get fairly strong 5.1 DTS and Dolby Digital mixes. For my one viewing I chose the DTS track and was quite impressed; imaging and position is solid around the soundstage, the surrounds are used quite well with small enveloping outdoor sounds, and dialogue is clear and detailed (even if you don’t really want to hear it at times). Also included are English captions for the hearing impaired

Starting off the extras, we have an overly exuberant commentary from director Brian Levant and producer Jordan Kerner. Lavent seems like he has missed his Ritalin pills over the last couple years spewing information about anything or nothing for the films entire runtime. I suppose this is nice to see a man so excited about his film, I just wish I could be excited for him, but at times, I almost felt sorry. Quite a different type of commentary, they are surely excited.

Next, we have four deleted scenes and five extended scenes. Nothing too much here of interest; just more of the same.

“Going to the Dogs” is a pretty interesting featurette that gives us a look at some of the work that went into the film; most notably the training of the dogs and the animatronics that are used here and there (yes, everything was not real!). “Chilling with the Actors” gives us just that, for a few minutes. “Tolketna on Ice” simply shows us a bit on the setting of the film.

Rounding it out we have three trailers, none include the actual presentation. Always good for a laugh.

Overall Snow Dogs is just not a good movie. I came in expecting nothing and really I walked away disappointed... quite a feat. Gooding tries to save the movie; but the movie cannot really save itself. Even DVD wise this is a disappointment if for nothing more then the complete lack of an anamorphic widescreen option. I hope that this is not indicative of things to come from Disney. Pass this one up, or at most give it a rent for the kiddies to watch.


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